JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister said Tuesday that Arab leaders agree with him that an emerging nuclear deal with Iran won’t stop Tehran from getting atomic weapons.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks come as Tehran and the six world powers negotiating with Iran face a June 30 target date for a comprehensive deal on curbing Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions’ relief.
Netanyahu told the prestigious Herzliya conference, an annual gathering that draws speakers from around the world, that he is not the only voice in the Middle East against the deal.
“I am often portrayed as the nuclear party pooper,” Netanyahu said. “But I speak with quite a few of our neighbors, more than you think, and I want to tell you that nobody in this region believes this deal will block Iran’s path to the bomb.”
Most of the region does not have official ties with Israel and Netanyahu did not name the leaders he spoke with or the circumstances of the discussions. He spoke in Herzliya, in central Israel, just days after a close confidant, Dore Gold, met publicly with a Saudi Arabian general to discuss Iran.
“It’s worth noting that nobody from this region except Iran is at the negotiating table,” Netanyahu added.
Iran insists that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes but Israel fears it could still allow Tehran to build nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu also warned the deal would spark a nuclear arms race that will see the region “crisscrossed with nuclear trip wires as other states nuclearize” in fear of Iran. He said lifting the sanctions rewards Iran with “prosperity at home” while allowing it to continue “aggression abroad.”
Israel has long claimed a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten world peace and security, and views a nuclear-armed Tehran as a threat to its very existence, citing Iran’s repeated calls for Israel’s destruction, its long-range missile program and its support for militant groups like Lebanese Hezbollah or the Palestinian Hamas.
There was no immediate comment from Arab states on Netanyahu’s remarks.
By The Associated Press