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Israeli minister backs Netanyahu’s call on Iran, countering N.Y. Times

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli government minister Gilad Erdan, responding to a New York Times editorial, defended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vigilance on the Iran nuclear program.

Erdan, the home front defense and communications minister, sent emails to the media on Saturday night after the Times one day earlier had blamed Netanyahu for the lack of progress on a diplomatic solution. The Israeli leader continues to call for sanctions to remain in place until Iran halts nuclear enrichment.

“A rare opportunity for a diplomatic resolution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program is at risk because many lawmakers, urged on by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, are insisting that Congress impose tougher economic sanctions,” read the editorial, which was headlined “Not the Time to Squeeze Iran.”

“President Obama deserves more time to work out a negotiated settlement with Iran and the other major powers. If the deal falls through, or if inspections by the United Nations unearth cheating, Congress can always impose more sanctions then. But if talks fail now, Mr. Netanyahu and the hard-line interest groups will own the failure, and the rest of us will pay the price.”

Under the widely reported proposed deal, the major Western powers would ease sanctions on Iran if Iran agrees to drop uranium enrichment to 3.5 percent.

In his response, Erdan pointed out that “success must be measured by what diplomacy achieves. The goal is to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program. A deal should be a means to that end and not an end in itself.”

Erdan reiterated that in order to freeze its nuclear program, Iran would have to stop construction of its plutonium-producing heavy water nuclear reactor at Arak and halt all uranium enrichment, which Iran has refused to do. He added that the sanctions relief reportedly being offered to Iran is not mild.

“Contrary to the New York Times editorial, this is precisely ‘the time to squeeze Iran.’ If the P5+1 do so and thereby succeed in reaching an agreement that peacefully and genuinely ends Iran’s nuclear weapons program, preventing it from becoming a threshold nuclear military power, we will all have Prime Minister Netanyahu among others to thank for their vigilance,” Erdan concluded.

 

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