Israel’s ambassador to the United States issued a sharp critique of on-going nuclear negotiations with Iran in a recent interview with Fusion.
“Israel is deeply concerned that a deal would be signed that would leave Iran effectively as a threshold nuclear power, meaning with their entire nuclear weapons making infrastructure largely intact, and remove the sanctions,” Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Monday.
Over the weekend, President Obama reiterated his support for the the path of the P5+1 (the U.S, France, Russia, United Kingdom, China and Germany) talks toward an agreement with Iran in June. The deal looks likely to decrease sanctions and allow domestic uranium enrichment in Iran, in exchange for controls on nuclear weapons development.
Dermer forcefully questioned that approach.
“I definitely don’t trust Iranians, I hope no one trusts the Iranians,” he said. “The Iranian regime is the foremost sponsor of terror on the entire planet. They’re a terrorist regime that has perpetrated in the last four years terror attacks on five continents and 25 different countries. So the last thing you want to do is to leave this terrorist regime anywhere else to nuclear weapons.”
Dermer defended the prime minister when Ramos brought up a recent poll showing that most Israelis think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Netanyahu is gearing up for elections in March.
“Well, Jorge, I don’t know in your last elections in the United States what percentage of people thought that America was headed in the wrong direction, and yet you still re-elected President Obama,” he said. “I have no doubt that when they look at all the people that stand for the leadership of the country that they will have confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
When questioned about Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent attempts at encouraging peace talks in the region, which broke down in the spring before a rash of violence this summer, Dermer said that Palestinians needed to come to the table on different terms.
“The reason we don’t have peace between Israelis and Palestinians is because the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people have never crossed that Rubicon to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own,” Dermer said.
Despite his pessimism about peace talks in the near future, Dermer was nonetheless appreciative of Secretary Kerry’s efforts.
“That is not the job of the American secretary of state,” Dermer said. “He can help facilitate the peace process, and he has tried to do that, this secretary and previous secretaries of state, but I’m confident the second Israelis face a Palestinian leadership that is truly committed to peace, that is willing to end the conflict… you will see Israelis rush to peace.”
Dermer, who was born in Miami, said that he understands the emotional impact of President Obama’s recent decision to engage with Cuba, in his hometown and beyond. But he said that Israel will move deliberately to evaluate whether it will follow suit on normalizing relations.
“First of all, I was elated that Alan Gross was released,” Dermer said. “We followed the United States’ lead on this issue… there was no love lost between Israel and the Castro regime. Castro had supported some of the worst enemies of Israel, terrorist organizations that were fighting Israel, attacked Israel in international forums.”
Ramos also asked Dermer about the upcoming Christmas season in Israel, and in Jerusalem specifically, and the ambassador spoke about the country’s inclusiveness.
“You see Christian communities all around Israel collapsing,” Dermer said. “We’re very proud in Israel that we have a growing and thriving Christian community. It’s four times as it was when Israel was established.”
Dermer mentioned that Arab Christians have been volunteering for the IDF in growing numbers, at a rate five times faster than last year. He closed the interview on another guarded yet hopeful holiday note.
“There is a lot of instability in the Middle East, and a lot of violence, and a lot of terrorism, and that could be going on for a long time,” Dermer said. “But one thing that you can be sure of is that Israel will remain a light in the darkness. A pluralistic, democratic, open, tolerant society, that will embrace people of all faiths and all minority groups.”