by Shlomo Cesana, Erez Linn, Lilach Shoval, AP and Israel Hayom Staff
Defense Ministry issues stinging response to U.S. President Barack Obama's assertion that Israel now approves of Iran nuclear deal • PM Benjamin Netanyahu's office clarifies that while Israel's stance hasn't changed, U.S. is Israel's most important ally.
The Prime Minister's Office is distancing itself from a harsh Defense Ministry statement directed at U.S. President Barack Obama, who contended last week that Israel no longer opposes the landmark nuclear agreement struck between Iran and six world powers in 2015.
Obama said in remarks on Thursday that the Iran deal was working and that "it's the assessment of the Israeli military and intelligence community ... that acknowledges this has been a game-changer."
He stated that "the country that was most opposed to the deal" -- meaning Israel -- had come around, and that the dire predictions made by Israel had not come to fruition.
In response, Israel's Defense Ministry compared the deal to the 1938 Munich Pact ahead of World War II, which Britain and France signed with Germany and which averted war at the time but effectively gave then-Czechoslovakia to the Nazis.
The Defense Ministry's response stressed that Israel "believes that agreements only have value if they are based on an existing reality, and they have no value if the facts on the ground are the complete opposite of the facts upon which the agreement is based.
"The Munich Agreement did not prevent World War II and the Holocaust precisely because the fundamental assumption, according to which Nazi Germany could be any kind of partner to an agreement, was mistaken, and because world leaders at the time ignored the clear statements made by Hitler and the other leaders of Nazi Germany."
In an effort to lower the flames, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office issued a statement on Friday saying that while "Israel's view on the Iran deal remains unchanged," it stressed that "Netanyahu fiercely believes that Israel has no ally more important than the United States. As Netanyahu detailed in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly last year, it is important that both those who agreed to and those who opposed [the deal] cooperate to achieve three goals: confirm that Iran is not violating the terms of the agreement; deal with Iran's regional aggression; and dismantle Iran's global terror network."
Additionally, Jacob Nagel, acting head of Israel's National Security Council, met with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to clarify that, despite the Defense Ministry statement, Israel does not intend to reopen the Iran nuclear deal issue with the United States.
Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid said that "the Defense Ministry's response is a mixture of diplomatic irresponsibility and unnecessary damage to the relationship between Israel and the United States. An official Israeli body simply cannot compare the American president to someone who bowed to the Nazis."
Similarly, Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich described the Defense Ministry's response as "reckless and irresponsible."
She added that since Israel was "on the verge of finalizing an agreement regarding American defense aid, which the IDF needs to badly, this kind of diplomatic damage borders on undermining national security."
Still, criticism of the Iran deal is ongoing in the United States as well. Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri strongly criticized Obama's remarks in a New York Post op-ed recently. According to Taheri, the Iran nuclear deal is part of Obama's attempt to justify his Nobel Peace Prize while passing the problem on to his successor. He wrote that the "once-in-a-lifetime" deal was simply "a smoke screen" that would allow Obama to "help the Iranian theocracy negotiate its way out of a severe political and economic crisis in exchange for endorsing Obama’s claim that he had prevented 'yet another war' in the Middle East."
Taheri added that "in exchange for vague promises, Obama has solved the Islamic Republic's cash-flow problem by releasing unknown quantities of frozen assets... A lump sum of $1.7 billion from assets frozen under President Jimmy Carter went straight into the budget of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard to help it upgrade its adventures in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen."
He summed up the issue, writing that a year on from the deal "'The Iran Problem' remains intact. In Tehran we have a regime that cannot liberate itself from its dangerous illusions and continues to behave like a rebellious teenager who refuses to grow up."
American Center for Democracy Director Rachel Ehrenfeld also published a biting article on Friday warning of the deal's "corrupting effects" and stating that "nothing seems to deter the [U.S.] administration's determination to satisfy Iran's Supreme Leader."
Shlomo Cesana, Erez Linn, Lilach Shoval, AP and Israel Hayom Staff
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