The tipping point draws closer by the day:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday, as Israel begins preparing its “day after” scenario in expectation of an imminent interim agreement between the P5+1 and Iran.
Netanyahu continued on Tuesday to implore the P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – to improve the conditions of the deal shaping up. But as he did so, others began talking about strategy for the eventuality that a deal is signed when the sides meet on Wednesday in Geneva for the third time this month.
Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, a Netanyahu confidant, said on Tuesday that Israel would not see itself bound by an agreement that does not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Israel’s main problem with the proposed deal is that it freezes Iran’s program but does not dismantle it or significantly roll it back, in exchange for sanctions relief that Jerusalem believes severely weakens the pressure on Tehran. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Tuesday that in accepting this agreement, the world would be demonstrating that it “is willing to deceive itself.”
Iranian political figures, meanwhile, have lined up to accuse Paris of jeopardizing chances to reach a deal after Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned against accepting “a fool’s game” – lopsided concessions to Tehran.
On Monday, Hollande set out a tough stance during his visit to Israel, saying he would not give way on nuclear proliferation with respect to Iran.
His remarks received criticism on Tuesday from an Iranian parliamentary official.
“We advise the president of France to comment on the basis of facts, not assumptions, and beyond that, not to be the executor of the Zionist regime’s [Israel’s] plan,” Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the assembly’s national security and foreign affairs committee, told Iran’s official news agency.
On Tuesday, Iranian parliamentarians gathered signatures to demand that the government continue enriching uranium to levels of 20 percent and finish building the Arak reactor.
“The government is obliged to protect the nuclear rights of Iran in the forthcoming negotiations,” Mehr news agency quoted MP Fatemeh Alia as saying.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Russia Wednesday for a meeting with Russian President Vladmir Putin to discuss nuclear talks with Iran, among other issues.
While Israel does not expect that the Kremlin will change its position significantly on Iran, the prime minister will try to elicit help from Russia to tailor any agreement more to Israeli standards, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who will accompany Netanyahu on the trip, Israel Radio reported.
“[We] don’t expect that Russia will adopt Israel’s views [on Iran], but even a slight change in Russia’s position could affect the expected agreement between the [world] powers and Iran,” he said.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would not step back from its nuclear rights and his negotiating team had been set limits for talks over Iran's disputed nuclear program, to resume in Geneva later on Wednesday.
"We do insist that we will not step back one iota from our rights," Khamenei said in a speech to tens of thousands of volunteer Basij militiamen in Tehran, broadcast live on Iran's Press TV with English translation.
"They should know that the Iranian nation respects all nations of the world, but we will slap aggressors in the face in such a way they will never forget it," Khamenei said, without referring to any specific country.
"Death to America," the militiamen chanted in response, repeating one of the main rallying cries for supporters of the Islamic Republic.
The leader criticized France. French President Francois Hollande assured Israel on Sunday that France would continue to oppose an easing of economic sanctions against Iran until it was convinced Tehran had given up any pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The French government spokeswoman says President Francois Hollande believes comments by Iran’s supreme leader about Israel are “unacceptable” and complicate talks between world powers and the Islamic regime over its nuclear program.
French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told reporters that Hollande’s cabinet discussed the Iran nuclear dossier just hours before negotiations between Iran and six world powers were set to resume in Geneva.