Netanyahu critic Leon Wieseltier says Israeli PM is right on Iran deal

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Political commentator Leon Wieseltier acknowledged that despite his dislike for Benjamin Netanyahu, he believes the Israeli prime minister is right about the Iran nuclear deal.

“I’ve almost never written a good word about him, so he’s right not to like me,” Wieseltier, a veteran Jewish-American journalist who served as literary editor of The New Republic from 1983 until last year, told the Times of Israel in an extensive interview. “But I agree with Bibi on Iran. He is right about the deal.”

The nuclear threat from Iran will continue until its theocratic government, which Wieseltier called the “criminal theocratic regime,” is replaced by a democratic government.

Wieseltier said he does not believe Congress will vote against the deal, and said that under a better deal sanctions would have been strengthened.

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He also said that Netanyahu’s threat of a preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear plants is “crap, because there is no Israeli military solution,” and decried Netanyahu’s handling of Israel’s relationship with the United States over the deal. He said Netanyahu was to blame for the deteriorating relationship between the two countries.

“It is possible to be against the deal without alienating and angering so many people,” Wieseltier said. “If the possibility of the Iranian nuclear threat is one of the pillars of Israel’s security planning now, the American-Israeli relationship is another pillar. He’s playing around with it.”

President Barack Obama does not hate Israel, Wieseltier said, but he is “the first U.S. president who doesn’t really have a special feeling for Israel.”

Wieseltier said he first met Netanyahu in 1982, when he served as deputy chief of mission in Washington under Ambassador Moshe Arens.

“From the moment we met we disliked each other,” the journalist said.

He said that Netanyahu “is taking Israel nowhere fast. Really. Status quo minus is what it is.”

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