Israel satisfied with Senate bill on Iran deal

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel is satisfied with a Senate bill on the nuclear agreement with Iran that is approved by the White House.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, on Wednesday in an interview with Israel Radio called the compromise bill, unanimously passed Tuesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “an achievement for Israeli policy.”

Steinitz said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech last month to a joint meeting of Congress “was decisive in achieving this law, which is a very important element in preventing a bad deal, or at least, in improving the agreement and making it more reasonable.”

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The bill requires that Congress vote to approve the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran based on the text of a final agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program, and prevents the Obama administration from lifting sanctions on Iran until Congress is done reviewing the agreement. It also requires the administration to report to Congress on various issues relating to Iran, including its support of global terrorism and its nuclear program.

Intensive negotiations over recent days between the committee chairman, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who authored the bill, and its top Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), stripped elements that the White House found objectionable, including linking sanctions relief to Iranian actions on terrorism, and shortened the review time from 60 days to 30 days.

Obama had threatened to veto earlier versions of the bill, but Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said before the vote that if reports on the compromise legislation bore out, that would no longer be the case.

The approved bill puts “more pressure and another barrier in the face of a bad agreement, and therefore the administration and the negotiating team will make more of an effort to seal gaps and to achieve an agreement that looks better, or at least more reasonable, so that it will pass in Congress,” Steinitz said.

The major powers and Iran announced earlier this month the outline of a nuclear deal that would swap sanctions relief for restrictions aimed at keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Israel and a number of Republican senators have strongly opposed the deal, saying it would leave Iran a nuclear weapons threshold state. The deadline for a final deal is June 30.