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Friday, November 8, 2013

Netahyanu Pre-Deplores ‘Bad Deal’ on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Video of remarks by Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, before his meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv on Friday.

As my colleagues Michael Gordon and Mark Landler report, before Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Geneva from Tel Aviv on Friday to try to close an interim nuclear deal with Iran, he met with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who made his disapproval of the potential agreement clear to reporters at the airport.

Apparently anxious to make sure that his message was broadcast as widely as possible, Mr. Netanyahu delivered scathing remarks about the as-yet-unstruck accord between the international community and Iran both before and after his meeting with Mr. Kerry.

Video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking after he met Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday.

According to Barak Ravid, a diplomatic correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Mr. Kerry backed out of a planned pre-meeting photo-op, but Mr. Netanyahu appeared anyway, expressing his disgust that “the Iranians are walking around very satisfied in Geneva, and they should be because they got everything and paid nothing.”

In video of his remarks quickly posted online by his office, the Israeli leader said, “Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal. This is a very bad deal and Israel utterly rejects it.”

Just two hours later, as America’s top diplomat left for Geneva to meet Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Mr. Netanyahu looked straight into the camera set up by his office and said, “I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal. But this is a bad deal, a very, very, bad deal.”

The two clips of Mr. Netanyahu’s comments pre-deploring the nuclear deal echoed very similar remarks he made the day before, when he told a visiting delegation from the United States Congress, included Micheel Bachmann that he was “absolutely stunned” by the outlines of the deal. “I think it is such a monumental mistake,” he added. “It is a historic mistake, I think. A grievous, historic error.”

Video of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking on Thursday to visitors from the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Netanyahu’s stance was criticized by diplomats with knowledge of the long effort to negotiate a solution to the standoff, including Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister, and Nicholas Burns, who led negotiations with Iran as an under secretary of state in the administration of George W. Bush.

Elaborating on his comments in an interview with the news site GlobalPost, Mr. Burns, who is now a professor of the practice of diplomacy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, said:

Netanyahu is making a serious error in judgment by criticizing the U.S. so openly before the deal is even announced. It does not make good sense for Israel to feud with the Obama administration. That can only help Iran. Israel and the U.S. will be much stronger and effective if the two sides keep their arguments private and stand together publicly.

Expatriate Iranian observers of the negotiations joked that Mr. Netanyahu’s displeasure was a sign that a deal might actually be close and gave him common cause with hardliners in Tehran.

As the talks paused Friday night in Geneva, Mohsen Milani, a professor of diplomatic studies at the University of South Florida, and Bahman Kalbasi of BBC Persian both noted that a message of support for Iran’s diplomats appeared on the website and Twitter feed of Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which call the nuclear negotiators as “the children of the revolution.”