Iran and six world powers reached an historic pact to curb the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment in exchange for a rollback of brutal international economic sanctions over the weekend, with the United States a key driver behind the talks. The only problem? Israel, Washington’s closest ally in the region, wants nothing to do with the deal.
In fact, Israeli leaders across Jerusalem’s diverse political spectrum denounced the agreement as a grave mistake that threatens their national security and fails to ask enough of a nefarious regime. We can expect constant pressure to be applied over the next six months, a trial period for the nuclear arrangement before it is (or may be) finalized. But the immediate impact on Israeli domestic politics is, perhaps ironically, to benefit the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce opponent of this specific compact and President Obama’s stance toward the region generally. The combative and disdainful dynamic between Netanyahu and Obama has boosted the former’s stock with the Israeli right, which is also deeply skeptical of the 44th president. Stumping furiously against coddling of nuclear Tehran will be his modus operandi going forward — a comfortable situation for the conservative leader to be in.
The key sticking point here remains whether any amount of Iranian uranium enrichment is acceptable. The United States and Europe continue to maintain that it is, or at least that it could be, whereas even Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu’s centrist former adversary who is now serving as justice minister in his administration, maintains the West is too trusting and that malicious Iranian intent is virtually certain; there is a hardening sense among Israelis that the reformist posture of recently-elected President Hassan Rowhani is a political branding tactic masterminded by Khamenei. And while attacking international negotiations without participating in them directly is not an effective way to influence the course of world affairs, a unified domestic front could provide Netanyahu with new clout and add weight to his now-familiar warnings.