(JTA) – U.S. President Barack Obama dismissed a demand by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel that a nuclear deal with Iran include its recognition of Israel.
“The notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms,” Obama said in an interview broadcast Tuesday on National Public Radio.
Obama called pressing Iran on Israel “a fundamental misjudgment.”
“We want Iran not to have nuclear weapons precisely because we can’t bank on the nature of the regime changing,” he said.
Netanyahu has said the proposed deal with Iran would “pose a grave danger to the region and to the world and would threaten the very survival of the State of Israel.”
Obama pointed out that that there are “a whole host” of countries in the Middle East that do not recognize Israel.
“The most important thing for Israelis is to know that they can defend themselves, and that they have America – the world’s most powerful country – there to protect them alongside their military and their intelligence operations,” the U.S. leader said.
Obama said during the 20-minute interview that sanctions against Iran can be re-imposed if the International Atomic Energy Agency finds that Tehran has broken the agreement. He said extensive inspections will be held in the early years of the pact.
The president also said that the breakout time for Iran to build a nuclear weapon will be a year, but acknowledged that after 13 years could be almost no time since the restrictions will have phased out. Breakout time is currently up to three months, he said.
Obama compared the framework agreement signed last week between Iran and the world powers to a contract to purchase a home.
“You’ve still got the, you know, the appraisal, the inspector, you’ve got to make sure that there isn’t some kind of environmental disaster on the land. And until you actually sign, you know, that mortgage and that document, the deal is not closed,” he said.
Congressional Republicans are pressing ahead with a proposal that would allow Congress to review – and reject – a nuclear deal with Iran. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the proposed successor to outgoing Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said this week that he was backing the proposal introduced by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.