Netanyahu says Iran must accept Israel’s existence

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that Iranian recognition of Israel's right to exist be written into an emerging nuclear deal, as he convened top officials for talks on Friday.

After meeting his security Cabinet, which comprises key ministers, National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen and other officials, he said they were unanimous in their opposition to the framework agreement which emerged on Thursday from marathon talks in Switzerland between the Islamic republic and world powers.

"The Cabinet is united in strongly opposing the proposed deal," he said in a statement at the end of the meeting, hours before the onset of the week-long Passover Jewish holiday.

"Some say that the only alternative to this bad deal is war," he added.

"That's not true. There is a third alternative - standing firm, increasing the pressure on Iran until a good deal is achieved."

And he stipulated that one of the provisions of a "good deal", must be an end to Iranian threats against the Jewish state.

"Israel demands that any final agreement with Iran will include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel's right to exist,' he said.

"Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period."

Israel is the Middle East's sole, albeit unacknowledged, nuclear power.

Repeating previous Israeli warnings, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said Thursday that all options were open.

"If we have no choice, we have no choice... the military option is on the table," he said.

Government spokesman Mark Regev said Friday that the path agreed in Lausanne toward a permanent deal was "a very, very dangerous direction".

"Iran's nuclear programme doesn't just threaten my country, Iran's nuclear programme threatens the peace and the security of the world," he told AFP.

The framework deal clinched by Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of nations marked a significant breakthrough in a 12-year standoff between Teheran and world powers over its nuclear programme.

Under the outline agreement, Iran agreed to sharply curtail its uranium enrichment capacity in return for the lifting of punitive sanctions that have crippled the country's economy.


Netanyahu took his battle against the deal last month to the US Congress, where he laid out Israel's concerns to repeated standing ovations from lawmakers.

The trip infuriated the White House and plunged US-Israeli relations to their frostiest for years.

Shortly after the outlines of a deal targeted for the end of June was revealed, Israeli government officials slammed it as "a historic mistake which will make the world far more dangerous".

"It is a bad framework which will lead to a bad and dangerous agreement," they said on condition of anonymity.

Under the deal, Iran's stocks of highly enriched uranium will be cut by 98 per cent for 15 years, while its unfinished Arak reactor will not produce weapons-grade plutonium.

The powers hope that this, along with a reduction in its uranium centrifuge numbers, will make it virtually impossible for Iran to produce nuclear weapons.

Israeli media were divided over the accord, with an opinion piece in the daily Haaretz calling it "not a bad deal at all".

"Iran perhaps scored some victories in terms of the narrative... but the world powers made significant achievements of their own on the real practical issues," the left-leaning paper said.

The Jerusalem Post, in an article by British journalist Melanie Phillips, however, said the continuation of talks towards a lasting deal was a "terrifying situation".

"The US has been prepared to allow a regime that is openly pursuing America's destruction and the annihilation of Israel to achieve nuclear weapons breakout capacity," she wrote.

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