Israel and Britain clash over Iran nuclear deal

The tension was evident during meeting between Netanyahu and the UK foreign secretary

Benjamin Netanyahu holds a joint press conference with Philip Hammond in Jerusalem yesterday. Photograph: Debbie Hill, Pool Photo via AP

Benjamin Netanyahu holds a joint press conference with Philip Hammond in Jerusalem yesterday. Photograph: Debbie Hill, Pool Photo via AP

 
Israel’s ongoing opposition to the nuclear deal signed with Iran has put it at odds with almost the entire international community and the tension was clear to see during yesterday’s meeting in Jerusalem between prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and visiting British foreign secretary Phillip Hammond.

Remarks to the media before such diplomatic meetings invariably involve friendly and polite exchanges, with differences being thrashed out behind closed doors once the cameras have gone.

However, yesterday’s opening statements highlighted the sharp differences of approach, exacerbated by Mr Hammond’s comments ahead of his arrival, when he accused Israel of opposing any agreement, preferring instead a “permanent state of standoff.”

“The alternative to this bad deal is not war,” said Mr Netanyahu. “The alternative is a better deal that would roll back Iran’s military nuclear programme and tie the easing of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme to changes in Iran’s behaviour.”

He stressed that the deal was “not a triumph for diplomacy, but a failure of diplomacy,” that, “paves this terrorist regime’s path to the bomb.”

Mr Hammond responded by urging Israel to co-operate with the international community now that an agreement has been signed. He insisted that the deal would not have been reached without definite measures to ensure Iran’s compliance.

“Despite our different views, I urge Israel to work with the UK to ensure the deal’s fully implemented and effectively monitored,” he said. He said he understood Netanyahu’s concerns over Iran’s calls for the destruction of Israel. “We are not naive about this.”

A channel 10 TV poll found that 70 per cent of Israelis oppose the nuclear deal, with only 10 per cent supporting it. A third of those polled said Israel now had no choice but to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.

During his meeting with Mr Hammond, opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog drew a link between a rocket fired at Israel from Gaza on Wednesday and the agreement.

“The rocket from Gaza is a painful reminder of the terror that has been threatening us for many years . . .this terror was further strengthened by the agreement that was signed with the Iranian terror regime in Vienna.”