(Netanya, Israel) – It’s been a weekend of high drama and high tension on the Iran nuclear front — and in U.S.-Israel relations – and it’s not over yet.
On Friday and for much of Saturday, it seemed as if the U.S. was going to persuade the leaders of the P5+1 group to sign a disastrous “first-step” deal with Iran. The deal would have made enormous concessions but allowed Iran to keep enriching uranium, keep spinning their centrifuges, keep building advanced new centrifuges, and not being required to dismantle a single centrifuge.
Israel immediately and very publicly objected to the contours of the deal upon learning of the details on Friday afternoon. But a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli PM Netanyahu went so badly that the two weren’t able to hold a joint news conference before Kerry left Israel for Geneva in hopes of finalizing the deal.
The situation looked very grim from the Israeli perspective for most of Friday and Saturday, with the Iranians signaling they expected to sign a deal by Saturday evening at the latest.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, the French delegation objected to the proposed U.S. deal.
“As I speak to you, I cannot say there is any certainty that we can conclude” the talks, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on French radio according to the Reuters news agency, noting that France could not accept a “sucker’s deal.”
It’s not often that the French take a hard, tough line for the right cause in international diplomacy. But they did this time and we should be very grateful. Their move should also remind us not to be fearful or cynical about this process. The Lord God of the Bible is sovereign. We can trust Him to do the right thing, even if all the nations of the world do the wrong thing. He can superintend events to accomplish His will. He can make leaders do His will. And He can give His people the patience and courage to endure suffering and hardship by His grace and mercy when the nations do the wrong thing.
Iranian leaders were stunned by the last minute turn of events that went against them.
Israeli officials were amazed and encouraged. Earlier today, Netanyahu congratulated the P5+1 group for slowing down the negotiations, delaying any decisions until at least November 20th when talks with Iran are to begin again, and avoiding signing “a bad deal.”
“Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, which took place at Sde Boker in the southern Negev desert, Netanyahu reiterated his warning of recent days that the deal that was being considered in talks over the weekend in Geneva by the so-called P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — was ‘bad and dangerous,’” reported the Times of Israel.
“Over the weekend I spoke with President Barack Obama, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with French President Francois Hollande, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron,” Netanyahu told the Cabinet. “I told them that, based on information Israel has received, the deal taking shape is bad and dangerous. Not just for us, but for them as well. I suggested they wait and think carefully, and it’s good that they decided to do so. We will do everything in our power to convince these powers and these leaders to avoid a bad deal.”
That said, the crisis in U.S.-Israel relations has intensified since Friday. Israeli leaders feel they were misled by the Obama administration over the direction of the talks with Iran, and a stunned that the U.S. would not only accept such a terrible deal, but push the rest of the international community to agree to the deal.
Haaretz is reporting that “a delegation of high-ranking U.S. officials is set to arrive in Jerusalem on Sunday to update the Netanyahu government on the weekend talks in Geneva about Iran’s nuclear program. The delegation will be led by Wendy Sherman, the U.S. undersecretary for political affairs, who heads the U.S. negotiating team on the matter….Sherman is expected to brief her Israeli counterpart on the talks in Geneva and on the gaps that remain. The U.S. delegation is due to meet with Israel’s national security adviser, Yossi Cohen, and with intelligence officials as well as senior officials in the foreign affairs and defense ministries. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be flying to Abu Dhabi to meet with Sheikh Abudllah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, to discuss the Iran negotiations. Along with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the UAE is a staunch opponent of an agreement between Iran and the world powers. According to foreign news reports, Israel has been working with the UAE on the Iran issue….Netanyahu is due to visit Moscow on November 20, the same day as the next round of Iran talks in Geneva.”
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