Geneva Deal V: Israel and the Gulf Reaction

November 24, 2013

            On November 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the interim agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program, calling it a “historic mistake.” He argued that sanctions “have been given up in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions.” President Shimon Peres directed his softer reaction to the Iranian people. “You [Iranians] are not our enemies and we [Israelis] are not yours,” he said. But Peres also warned that “if the diplomatic path fails, the nuclear option will be prevented by other means.”
            The Gulf states, which were also skeptical about talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers, issued reserved reactions to the deal. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates cautiously hoped the agreement would eventually lead to the broader removal of weapons of mass destruction from the region.

            But one Saudi official candidly expressed his fears about the deal. Abdullah al Askar, chairman of the Shura Council’s foreign affairs committee, said that he worried “about giving Iran more space or a freer hand in the region.” Tehran “has proven that it has an ugly agenda in the region,” he said. The following are excerpted remarks from Israel and the Gulf sheikhdoms.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
            “What was achieved last night in Geneva is not an historic agreement; it is an historic mistake. Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world. For the first time, the world’s leading powers have agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran while ignoring the U.N. Security Council decisions that they themselves led. Sanctions that required many years to put in place contain the best chance for a peaceful solution. These sanctions have been given up in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be cancelled in weeks. This agreement and what it means endanger many countries including, of course, Israel. Israel is not bound by this agreement. The Iranian regime is committed to the destruction of Israel and Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. As Prime Minister of Israel, I would like to make it clear: Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in remarks at a cabinet meeting
            On November 25, Netanyahu tweeted that the deal was better than what was “originally planned” but “still a bad deal.”
President Shimon Peres
            “Last night a deal was signed between the P5+1 and Iran. This is an interim deal. The success or failure of the deal will be judged by results, not by words. I would like to say to the Iranian people: You are not our enemies and we are not yours. There is a possibility to solve this issue diplomatically. It is in your hands. Reject terrorism. Stop the nuclear program. Stop the development of long-range missiles. Israel like others in the international community prefers a diplomatic solution. But I want to remind everyone of what President Obama said, and what I have personally heard from other leaders. The international community will not tolerate a nuclear Iran. And if the diplomatic path fails, the nuclear option will be prevented by other means. The alternative is far worse.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
Yitzhak Herzog, Labor party chairman and parliament's opposition leader
            “The agreement that was signed tonight between the powers and Iran is a fait accompli, and Israel must adjust itself to the new situation. A question mark remains regarding the end of the process and on this matter the Israeli concern is justified. Accordingly, Netanyahu must do everything in his power to fix the damage caused by the public clash with the United States and to return to an intimate relationship with President Obama and other world leaders.”
            Nov. 25, 2013 in an interview with Channel 10 television
Saudi Arabia
            “If there is goodwill, then this agreement could be an initial step toward reaching a comprehensive solution for Iran's nuclear program if that leads to the removal of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, from the Middle East and Arab Gulf.”
Nov. 25, 2013 in a cabinet statement
Abdullah al Askar, chairman of the Shura Council’s foreign affairs committee
            “I am afraid Iran will give up something on [its nuclear program] to get something else from the big powers in terms of regional politics. And I’m worrying about giving Iran more space or a freer hand in the region. The government of Iran, month after month, has proven that it has an ugly agenda in the region, and in this regard no one in the region will sleep and assume things are going smoothly.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 according to Reuters
            The agreement is “an important step towards safeguarding peace and stability in the region… The State of Qatar calls for making the Middle East a nuclear weapon-free zone.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a foreign ministry statement
The United Arab Emirates
            “The cabinet hopes this would represent a step towards a permanent agreement that preserves the stability of the region and shield it from tension and the danger of nuclear proliferation.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a cabinet statement published by state media


Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Khaled al Jarallah

            I hope the deal “would pave the way for a permanent accord that would defuse tension, and preserves the stability and security of the region.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
Foreign Minister  Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa
            “The agreement removes fears from us, whether from Iran or any other state.”
            Nov. 25, 2013 according to The National