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December 11, 2013 11:38 am

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister: Geneva Deal Limits U.S. Ability to Pressure Israel in PA Negotiations (INTERVIEW)

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Israeli MK Danny Danon. Photo: World Likud.

Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister, Danny Danon, said that the recently inked nuclear deal between Iran and world powers will undermine U.S. leverage with Israel when it comes to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

In an interview with The Algemeiner, Danon underlined the “linkage” theme, recently hinted at by Prime Minister Netanyahu, in which the U.S. is said to have used the Iranian nuclear issue to pressure Israel into negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, denied that any connection was being made between the two issues.

Asked if he thought that the Geneva deal would make it harder for the Americans to pressure Israel in its talks with the Palestinian Authority, Danon said “absolutely.”

“After the agreement in Geneva it will be very hard for them to think about this strategy,” Danon said.

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Explaining further, Danon said that that Israel is “not happy with the agreement in Geneva… that’s why it will be harder to use (the issue of Iran) as a tool today.”

“I would advise Secretary Kerry to change his priorities and put the Iranian issue very much ahead of the Palestinian issue,” he added.

Speaking at the Saban Forum in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “Our best efforts to reach Palestinian-Israeli peace will come to nothing if Iran succeeds in building atomic bombs,” linking the two issues publicly.

The following day, Ambassador Shapiro rejected the position. “There is no connection between these two issues,” Shapiro told Israel Army Radio.

Danon’s comments are among many from Israeli ministers and political leaders who have been highly critical of the U.S. approach to negotiating with Iran.

“We are not happy with the new reality today, that we are in a grey area where Iran on one hand continues to acquire nuclear capability, and at the same time they are able to rebuild their economy,” he said.

Explaining why the Israeli rhetoric over Iran has been so forthright, the deputy minister said that the severity of the threat faced by Israel warrants boldness.

“We are not in a position to be thinking what is politically correct,” he said. “If the outcome will be that Iran will achieve nuclear capability, it is very meaningful to us. That is why even when we are dealing with our allies and friends in the U.S., we have to be very bold.”

For Israel, Danon said, “The clock is ticking.”

“If there is tension (with the U.S.) we will overcome it, but if Iran will become nuclear that is something we can’t overcome,” he explained.

Danon agreed with his Prime Minister’s assessment that the weakening of international sanctions against Iran will have a domino effect.

“That is the direction we are anticipating, and that is why we are worried and that is why we are disappointed with the current agreement,” he said.

As a leader in Israel’s defense ministry, Danon highlighted the precautionary training and preparatory measures that Israel is taking in the event that military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities is called for.

“We are preparing ourselves and our airforce is training to refuel and to attack long distance targets, and that is something that we have been doing for a long time,” he said.

However, as has been widely speculated, Danon confirmed that the Geneva agreement ties Israel’s hands, at least temporarily. “In the diplomatic arena it looks like today it will be very hard for Israel to do anything in the next six months,” he said.

“But I can tell you,” he added, “that we are watching it very carefully and we will do whatever we need to do in order to protect ourselves.”

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