A deal between Iran and the six world powers is highly unlikely to be reached by March, a senior Israeli official told reporters Monday.
“I don’t believe that an agreement will come at any price,” said the official who has knowledge of the negotiations. “No one can declare with any certainty that an agreement will be reached shortly. It’s hard to envision a scenario in which the negotiations, and all the surrounding technical and diplomatic complexities, conclude by the end of March.”
“The combination of political pressure and economic leverage increases the chances of better results in the negotiations,” the official added. “This does not guarantee an agreement, but the lack of pressure will ensure that there will be not be an agreement.”
The official’s statements come in sharp contrast to those made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said Monday that “an agreement is currently being forged by Iran and the world powers.”
On Sunday, during his weekly cabinet meeting Netanyahu said that the deal between Iran and the P5+1 was likely to be signed “in the coming weeks,” and he reiterated that “the forthcoming agreement is unacceptable for Israel, and we staunchly oppose it.”
“Iran must not move on to atomic weapons,” he added Sunday. “I am committed to making every effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons it will aim at Israel.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, during an official visit on Monday, that Israel prefers that no agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is better than a “bad deal.”
Lieberman also reiterated that Israel is keeping “all options on the table” regarding Iran.
Russia signed a military cooperation deal with Iran last week which allows the two countries to partake in joint exercises and military training. The deal, which Iran said was in response to US “interference” also allows for “cooperation in peacekeeping, maintaining regional and international security and stability, and fighting against separatism and extremism.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassador to the United States defended Netanyahu’s decision to address a joint session of Congress next month, describing the move as a “sacred duty” for the Israeli leader in a critical period for the “survival” of the state.
Netanyahu will address the United States Congress in March on the issue of Iran.
The threat from a nuclear Iran is forcing the prime minister to speak, “fearless” of the political repercussions Dermer added.
“Today, the international community stands at the precipice of forging an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program,” Dermer said. “The agreement that is being discussed today is not an agreement that would dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, but rather one that could leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state.”
Netanyahu on Sunday defended his decision to accept a controversial invitation to address the US Congress on Iran that has sparked a bitter row with the White House.
Netanyahu was unrepentant as he met with ministers at Israel’s weekly cabinet session.
“In the coming weeks, the world powers are likely to reach a framework agreement with Iran which is likely to let Iran remain a nuclear threshold state, something which will first and foremost endanger the existence of Israel,” he said in remarks relayed by his office.
“As prime minister of Israel, I am obliged to make every effort to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons which it will aim at the State of Israel.
“I will go wherever I am invited to make Israel’s position heard and to protect its future and its existence,” he said.