by Ali Gharib
The pattern is clear as day: whatever Benjamin Netanyahu has to say about the Iran deal is based in hyperbole, fear-mongering, and fantasy. Before the nuclear deal was even inked, Netanyahu made a highly politicized appearance at Congress and denounced the deal. The accord, Netanyahu said, “doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb. So why would anyone make this deal?” On the cusp of a deal in July, Netanyahu proclaimed: “This deal will pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal.” After the deal was finally struck, he said that Iran “is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons.”
Now we have a report that a notable authority disagrees with Netanyahu’s assessment: the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. This is the body that advises the government—that is, Netanyahu’s government—on nuclear matters. The commission, according to a report yesterday in Haaretz, found that the Iran nuclear deal was likely to prevent Iran from getting the bomb. According to Haaretz:
The commission’s members say they are convinced that the April 2 agreement between Iran and the world powers will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. In recent years these experts have been analyzing information about Iran’s nuclear project, and estimating how far away the Islamic Republic was from developing a bomb.
The panel went on to say that if Iran does cheat on the terms of the deal, it would be detected—which is exactly what Barack Obama has said. Likewise, Netanyahu and his stateside allies had attacked a provision on the deal that gave a 24-day review period to adjudicate disputed snap inspections of alleged undeclared nuclear sites. The Israeli nuclear commission, according to the report, took the side of most nuclear experts in stating that inspections technology and the nature of nuclear work is such that 24 days would not be enough to hide any such efforts. (When Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the first Democrat to publicly oppose the deal, cited a misleading version of the 24-day claim in his opposition announcement, the Washington Post fact-checking column gave it “two Pinocchios.”)
That a group of Israeli nuclear experts would side with the bulk of their colleagues should not be a surprise to anyone. But the commission’s findings still merit mentioning because of how distorted Netanyahu and his American allies’ attacks on the nuclear deal have become. Although Netanyahu found support for his position even from the Israeli political opposition, the security establishment has been noticeably supportive of the deal, at least in substance if not in actual word.
Netanyahu’s opinions about the nuclear deal should at best be taken with a grain of salt and at worst ignored entirely. He is clearly approaching the issue like an ideologue rather than carefully weighing the options. This should have been obvious early on: Netanyahu not only opposed the deal as it was forged and after it emerged, but has opposed diplomacy with Iran at nearly every turn. That so many of his followers devoutly disseminate his bogus talking points—see AIPAC’s cribbing of the “pave [Iran’s] path to a bomb” language—indicates that maybe we ought to take them less seriously, too. Let’s call it like it is: Netanyahu is a clown, and his amen corner here in the States is little more than the parrot in his act, faithfully repeating every one of his lines without even bothering to know what they’re saying.