Bibi to lobby Trump over Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

THERE are “various ways of undoing” the West’s nuclear deal with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed.

He said that he plans to lobby Donald Trump to scuttle the deal once Trump takes office, and denied that Iran would rush to make a nuclear bomb if the restrictions of the deal are scrapped.

Netanyahu argued that “Iran didn’t rush to the bomb before there was a deal”, and said that there is “much more” possibility for keeping Iran in check than people think. He has several ideas for abrogating the Iran deal, but won’t specify what they are until he has discussed them with Trump.

Shortly before Netanyahu’s comments were aired on Sunday, in an interview with the American CBS network, Iran issued a warning shot. If Trump acts against Iran, it will put Israel in jeopardy. Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan said that should Iran’s enemies embark on a path that leads to hostilities with Tehran, the consequences for Israel could be devastating. War “would mean the destruction of the Zionist regime”, Dehghan claimed according to the Mehr news agency. It would also “engulf the whole region and could lead to a world war”.

Analysts said that it is difficult to tell whether Netanyahu is serious about pushing Trump to scrap the Iran deal. “With Netanyahu you can’t tell,” the Hebrew University’s Professor Moshe Maoz told The AJN. And while some commentators praised Netanyahu for his tough stance, Maoz thinks that “if he means it, and he means action as he did a few years ago, this is dangerous.”

Maoz said: “If we start something, they can retaliate and while they don’t yet have nuclear capability they have enough rockets of their own and via Hezbollah to destroy large parts of Israel.”

But Netanyahu was optimistic in his interview, downplaying fears about what Iran may do if the deal is cancelled. He defended his stance towards Barack Obama and his decision to lobby Congress against Obama last year – in accordance with his responsibility to speak out “when something threatens our very future”. And he argued that Israel is not becoming more isolated – as many presume – but less isolated.

Netanyahu said that opposition to the Iran deal “brought the Arab states and Israel closer together”, noting improved relationships with Egypt and Jordan, while declining to comment on Saudi Arabia which is thought to have growing informal ties with Israel.

He said: “All I can tell you is that Israel’s position in the Arab world has changed because they no longer see Israel as their enemy, but as their ally, in their indispensable battle against the forces of militant Islam, either those led by Iran, the Shiites, or – and those led by Daesh – by ISIS, the militant Sunnis.”

Israeli innovation is also playing into Israel’s relationships, Netanyahu said, noting that African nations that used to vote against Jerusalem at the United Nations are now among its clients. “It’s a revolution there,” he observed. “We can’t keep up.”

The interview included a warm embrace of Trump as pro-Jewish – just as American Jewry is raising questions about his attitudes.

“I know him very well,” said Netanyahu. “And I think his attitude, his support for Israel is very clear. He feels very warmly about the Jewish State … and about Jewish people. There’s no question about that.”

NATHAN JEFFAY