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Deal With It

How Israel Can Live with the Iranian Nuclear Agreement

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks up during his visit to the police headquarters in Jerusalem November 22, 2012. Gali Tibbon / Reuters

Just hours after the P5+1 and Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in Vienna, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried it, stating that the deal was not only a threat to Israel, but to the “entire world.” In the long run, the deal might be good for Israel, since it pushes Iran farther away from pursuing a nuclear weapons capability, and could even lead to a in shift the Middle East’s regional order through a more cooperative American-Iranian approach. Neither of these optimistic scenarios look possible in the near future, however, and much will depend on Iran’s own domestic political struggles and how it pursues its regional goals. In the meantime, Netanyahu’s hyperbolic rhetoric notwithstanding, Iran does remain a genuine threat to Israeli security. In this context, Israel’s opposition to the agreement is understandable as it contributes to the normalization of Iran’s presence across the region and puts Israel in a defensive position.

Netanyahu has long insisted that negotiating with Tehran “paves Iran’s path to the bomb.” Striking a deal with Iran was necessary, however, given the unhindered progress in its nuclear research. As of 2014, Iran projected that it could generate 20 gigawatts of energy from its nuclear reactors by 2020. Estimates in 2013 projected that its advances in nuclear power had saved it 11 billion barrels of oil that could yield $2 billion on the international market. The Iranian nuclear program was clearly progressing even under a harsh sanctions regime. 

Even so, Netanyahu and others contend the agreement will only delay Tehran from the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons. Ultimately, though, the P5+1 partners were never going to get everything they wanted from talks: to expect Iran to dismantle every piece of its nuclear program or give up its right to produce nuclear fuel, would be unreasonable. The specifics of the deal will constrain these efforts for at least several years, although it is possible for Iran to cheat in the interim and lay the groundwork for

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