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World

Israel suspicious of any Iran nuclear deal

Experts say there is a deal with Iran that Israel can live with, but Israel will still criticize any accord signed at the United Nations in the coming weeks over Iran’s nuclear capacity.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday (20.11.2013) sought to reassure skeptics in Israel worried that Iran, despite any deal, might still be left with the capacity to make a nuclear bomb.

"We will not allow this agreement, should it be reached, to buy time or to allow for the acceptance of an agreement that does not properly address our core, fundamental concerns," Kerry said in Washington.

Earlier in the week, Israel's Hareetz newspaper cited US sources as saying the proposed deal with Iran would include a halt to the construction of Iran's heavy water plant Arak, a freeze on Iran's existing stockpile of enriched uranium and tough inspections.

In addition to limiting all uranium enrichment to 19.75 percent, Iran would undertake to freeze current levels of its stockpiles of enriched uranium as a whole, according to the report.

"This would mean that Tehran would have to hand over previously enriched uranium equal to the quantities of newly enriched uranium produced in Iranian reactors," Hareetz reported.

It is believed the heavy water plant in West Iran, Arak or IR-40, once built, would be capable of producing enough plutonium for up to two nuclear bombs a year.

Nuclear ambitions

Israel is demanding that Iran stop all nuclear enrichment and destroy its centrifuges, but many Israelis think that Iran would pursue its ultimate goal no matter what.

"I think if Iran wants a nuclear weapon it will get one and this deal will not stop them," said Elizabeth Tsurkov, a Masters student at Tel Aviv University.

"This deal is only for six months, I don't think we will see anything final, negotiations have been ongoing since 2003 and the deal offered this time appears worse than those offered in 2003 and 2005. I think Netanyahu has handled it very badly, this deal is a real blow for him - it's created real tensions, when you see Israeli officials from embassies going to congress to convince them to strengthen sanctions it's a violation of how states should behave," said Tsurkov.

Amir Mizroch, editor-in-chief of the newsletter Israel Hayom, said Iran would never truly give up its nuclear weapons ambitions.

"Israelis in general are monochromatic on the Iranian issue, for better or for worse, believing it presents an existential threat, that we will ultimately be left alone to deal with it, and that the world has no stomach for a fight with Iran," said Mizroch.

Netanyahu's calculated risk

An view of a heavy-water production plant, which went into operation despite U.N. demands that Iran roll back its nuclear program, in the central Iranian town of Arak, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2006. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Saturday, after the inauguration of the plant, that his nation's controversial nuclear program poses no threat to any other country, even Israel which is a definite enemy. (AP Photo/ ISNA, Arash Khamoushi)

The UN is demanding that Irak roll back its nuclear program

Jonathan Rynhold, senior lecturer in political studies at Bar-Ilan University, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was taking a calculated risk by being so outspoken over the deal.

"In the meantime Israel will suffer for awhile, but Netanyahu knows this and thinks its worth it if it stops a bad deal."

Rynhold said the type of deal Netanyahu could live with would include suspension of the construction of the Arak reactor, limiting uranium refinement to 20 percent, handing over all uranium currently refined at 20 percent or more to outside powers, or converting it to a less-refined state, not allowing any new fast centrifuges to be used and genuine intrusive international inspections to ensure implementation.

He said Israel would want sanctions to be automatically re-imposed if Iran was found to be cheating and new sanctions imposed after six months if the Iranians refuse to give up their nuclear progamme.

"Even then the PM opposes the P5 (Britain, France, US, Russia, China - the ed.) allowing Iran to enrich to 3.5 percent since they have no right to do so and because he fears that despite safeguards this would allow Iran to be a nuclear threshold state," Rynhold told DW.

Military strike?

Rynhold said any deal would make an Israeli strike difficult, unless the Iranians were caught cheating but he didn't rule it out

"Given Obama's hesitance in confronting Syria after they crossed the red line - Israel might act independently regardless of the US position, in the event of cheating. The more the Iranians believe that to be the case, the less likely they are to cheat - in the past they have altered the pace and nature of their program in response to Israeli positions."

Meir Litvak, director of the Center of Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University, said he believed there would be a deal in the next two weeks and that Iran would agree to increased International Energy Agency supervision and to stop enriching uranium beyond 20 percent.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem May 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Israel has been talking tough, but would it actually attack Iran?

According to Litvak, Israel would not attack Iran without US consent and that Netanyahu was big on rhetoric but nevertheless cautious and prudent.

"They said Teddy Roosevelt spoke carefully and carried a big stick - Netanyahu is the opposite - there is a big gap between his action and his rhetoric," said Litvak.

Litvak is convinced that Iran will agree to dispose of its first-generation centrifuges, most of which are are dated and broken, but will want to hang on to the new generation. "It all looks wonderful if Iran keeps its part of the bargain but if they violate it they would still have enough uranium for maybe one bomb," said Litvak.

"No one will listen to Israel and ironically all that Netanyahu is doing is helping [Iran's President Hassan] Rouhani sell the deal inside Iran, as he can say 'look the Zionists are complaining, it must be good.'"

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