JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel called a U.S. Senate bill requiring the U.S. Congress to review any nuclear agreement with Iran “an achievement for Israeli policy.”
Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, made the remark in an interview Wednesday with Israel Radio on the compromise bill passed unanimously the day before by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Steinitz said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech last month to a joint meeting of Congress “was decisive in achieving this law, which is a very important element in preventing a bad deal, or at least in improving the agreement and making it more reasonable.”
The bill requires that Congress vote to approve the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran based on the text of a final agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program, and prevents the Obama administration from lifting sanctions on Iran until Congress is done reviewing the agreement. It also requires the administration to report to Congress on various issues relating to Iran, including its support of global terrorism and its nuclear program.
Intensive negotiations over recent days between the committee chairman, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who authored the bill, and its top Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), stripped elements that the White House found objectionable, including linking sanctions relief to Iranian actions on terrorism, and shortened the review time from 60 days to 30 days.
Obama had threatened to veto earlier versions of the bill, but Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said before the vote that if reports on the compromise legislation bore out, that would no longer be the case.
The approved bill puts “more pressure and another barrier in the face of a bad agreement, and therefore the administration and the negotiating team will make more of an effort to seal gaps and to achieve an agreement that looks better, or at least more reasonable, so that it will pass in Congress,” Steinitz said.
The major powers and Iran announced earlier this month the outline of a nuclear deal that would swap sanctions relief for restrictions aimed at keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Israel and a number of Republican senators have strongly opposed the deal, saying it would leave Iran a nuclear weapons threshold state. The deadline for a final deal is June 30.