Prime Minister’s Office downplays division with U.S. over Iran deal

Hundreds of people protesting against the Iran nuclear deal on July 26, 2015, in Los Angeles, California. (Peter Duke)

JTA

JERUSALEM—While Israel still does not support the Iran nuclear deal, it continues to consider the United States its greatest ally, the Prime Minister’ Office said in a statement,

The statement was issued Friday night, hours after Israel’s Defense Ministry issued a harsh statement which asserted that Israel has not come around to support of the deal and compared it to the Munich Agreement of 1938.

The Prime Minister’s Office was blindsided by the Defense Ministry’s statement, according to Israeli news reports on Saturday, and worked overtime on Friday night to do damage control, including calling U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to downplay the statement.

Defending the deal on Thursday, amid allegations that the U.S. paid Iran $400 million as “ransom” to secure the release of American prisoners, U.S. President Barack Obama said the “Israeli military and security community … acknowledges this has been a game changer” and that “By all accounts, it has worked exactly the way we said it was going to work.”

Some high-level former and current Israeli defense figures have spoken out in favor of the deal, albeit with caveats.

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But the Israeli government remains against the deal, which lifts sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program, signed last summer between Iran and six world powers, including the United States. Israel and many American Jewish groups fiercely opposed the deal.

“While Israel’s view on the Iran deal remains unchanged, Prime Minister Netanyahu firmly believes that Israel has no greater ally than the United States,” read the statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“As the Prime Minister articulated last year at the United Nations, it is important now that both the who supported the deal and those who opposed it work together to achieve these three goals: Keep Iran’s feet to the fire to ensure that it doesn’t violate the deal; confront Iran’s regional aggression; and dismantle Iran’s global terror network,” the statement continued.

Netanyahu “looks forward to translating these goals into a common policy and to further strengthening the alliance between Israel and the United States with President Obama and with the next U.S. administration,” the statement concluded.