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Why did Israel say “Lo”?

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement following his briefing by John Kerry on the then pending deal with Iran this past week was remarkable. Netanyahu was obviously pushing back against the United States for agreeing to a deal that left Iran with imminent breakout nuclear capacity and relaxed sanctions. Netanyahu objected to a sellout that, contrary to previous assurances, jeopardized the security of America’s regional allies if not of the United States itself.

Lee Smith has been following Israeli accounts of what went down behind the scenes to account for Netanyahu’s demeanor. Smith summarizes the Israeli accounts this way:

Haaretz reports that the administration misled Israel regarding the terms of the proposed interim agreement with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. One senior Israeli official explained that on Wednesday Israel had seen an outline that the Israelis “didn’t love but could live with.” Thursday morning French and British officials, and not the White House, told the Israelis that the terms had changed and were much more favorable than what they’d been shown previously. “Suddenly it changed to something much worse that included a much more significant lifting of sanctions,” said the Israeli official. “The feeling was that the Americans are much more eager to reach an agreement than the Iranians.”

When Kerry landed in Geneva Friday, only a few small details were left to sort out before striking an agreement. But the problem wasn’t the Iranian side, rather it was France that wouldn’t sign off on the “bracketed text” in the draft document. In other words, after misleading the Israelis, the administration had hoped to present the deal as a fait accompli. In scuttling the agreement, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius saved the day—for the time being.

On the international scene, as we have frequently observed, Barack Obama punishes America’s friends and rewards America’s enemies. Smith puts it this way: “These guys go for the jugular—for them diplomacy is a blood sport where anything is licit so long as victory is the endgame. Too bad the White House deploys those skills not against U.S. adversaries but against allies like Israel and France.” Last week brought us to the brink of a Munich moment that will, I fear, come around again sooner rather than later.

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