Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that the political framework for a nuclear deal with Iran reached Thursday in Switzerland would keep Tehran’s vast nuclear program in place, and that its inter-continental ballistic missile system (ICBM) — an issue not addressed in the deal — was more of a threat to the US than to Israel.

Speaking to CNN as part of a media blitz set to include ABC and NBC, the Israeli prime minister said the deal “keeps Iran’s vast nuclear infrastructure in place, not a single centrifuge destroyed, not a single nuclear facility shut down, including the underground facilities that they built illicitly, thousands of centrifuges will keep spinning, enriching uranium, that’s a very bad deal.” 

“They’re getting a free path to the bomb,” he said.

Netanyahu also warned that Iran’s ICBM program, an issue that was not negotiated on as part of nuclear talks, was a real threat to the US.

“The ending of their ICBM, that’s not in the deal and those missiles are only used for you [the US], they’re not missiles that can reach us, and they’re geared for nuclear weapons,” he said.

“The alternatives are not either this bad deal or [going to] war,” Netanyahu went on, “I think there’s a third alternative and that is standing firm, ratcheting up the pressure until we get a better deal and a better deal would roll back Iran’s vast nuclear infrastructure and require Iran to stop it’s aggression in the region, its terrorism worldwide and its calls and actions to annihilate the state of Israel. That’s better deal, it’s achievable.”

“Iran’s nuclear program is being legitimized and they are give the ability not only to maintain their infrastructure but also within a few years, to increase it,” he said.

Netanyahu has come out strongly against the political framework since it was announced Thurday, charging that it threatens Israel’s very survival and paves the way for Iran to become and nuclear state.

“If a country vows to annihilate us and is working every day with conventional means and unconventional means, if that country has a deal that paves its way to nuclear weapons, many nuclear weapons, it endangers our survival,” he reiterated Sunday.

“It will also spark an arms race with the Sunni states because they understand exactly what I just said,” he warned

Netanyahu also said Israeli criticisms of attempted US assurances that the deal would significantly curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief were not a matter of trust.

Dianne Feinstein (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Dianne Feinstein (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Responding to some of Netanyahu’s complaints, Senator Dianne Feinstein said tetchily, “I think he’s said what he has to say” and “to be candid, I think this can backfire on him.”

Feinstein (D-CA) contended that Netanyahu “has put out no real alternative” to the US-led deal.

In a phone call with Netanyahu after the deal was reached Thursday, US President Barack Obama said the accord “in no way diminishes our concerns with respect to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and threats towards Israel and emphasized that the United States remains steadfast in our commitment to the security of Israel.” The White House and State Department made similar statements.

“I trust the president is doing what he thinks is good for the United States. I think it’s not a question of personal trust” Netanyahu told CNN.

On Friday, Netanyahu demanded  that any final deal contain Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist — a demand rejected by the US State Department.

Iran and six world powers announced a series of understandings Thursday, with a final agreement to be reached by June 30. A final deal is meant to cut significantly into Iran’s bomb-capable technology while giving Tehran quick access to assets and markets blocked by international sanctions.

Netanyahu has harshly criticized the negotiations, demanding instead that the Iranian program be dismantled. He claims Iran cannot be trusted, and that leaving certain facilities intact would allow the Iranians to eventually build a bomb.

Netanyahu said Friday after the session that “Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period.”

However, he also acknowledged the possibility of a final agreement being reached, and said that such a deal must “include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist.”

Netanyahu said his government “is united strongly opposing the proposed deal,” which he said would threaten Israel’s survival.

“Such a deal does not block Iran’s path to the bomb,” he said. “Such a deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb. And it might very well spark a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East and it would greatly increase the risks of terrible war.”

The commitments announced Thursday, if implemented, would substantially pare back some Iranian nuclear assets for a decade and restrict others for an additional five years. According to a US document listing those commitments, Tehran is ready to reduce its number of centrifuges, the machines that can spin uranium gas to levels used in nuclear warheads.

Of the nearly 20,000 centrifuges Iran now has installed or running at its main enrichment site, the country would be allowed to operate just over 5,000. Much of its enriched stockpiles would be neutralized. A planned reactor would be reconstructed so it can’t produce weapons-grade plutonium. Monitoring and inspections by the UN nuclear agency would be enhanced.

Netanyahu also voiced concerns that the emerging deal would leave much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact.

“They would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran, would not destroy a single centrifuge in Iran and will not stop research and development on Iran’s advanced centrifuges,” he said. “On the contrary. The deal would legitimize Iran’s illegal nuclear program. It would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. A vast nuclear infrastructure remains in place.”

He’s repeatedly called on the world powers to stand firm and increase pressure in Iran until what he termed a good deal is achieved.