Israel denies Obama’s assertion that it now supports Iran deal

(JTA) – Vigorously disputing U.S. President Barack Obama’s claim that Israeli officials now support the Iran nuclear deal, Israel’s Defense Ministry compared last year’s deal to the Munich Agreement of 1938.

Responding to comments Obama made Thursday saying that Israeli defense officials now back the deal, which lifts sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program, Israel’s defense ministry issued a strongly worded statement Friday, the Times of Israel reported.

“The Israeli defense establishment believes that agreements have value only if they are based on the existing reality, but they have no value if the facts on the ground are the complete opposite of those the deal is based upon,” the statement said.

In addition, Tzachi Hanegbi, an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and former chair of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told the Times of Israel: “I don’t know to which Israelis [Obama] spoke recently. But I can promise you that the position of the prime minister, the defense minister and of most senior officials in the defense establishment has not changed.”

“The opposite is the case. The time that has elapsed since the deal was signed proved all our worries that, regrettably, we were justified before the deal was made,” Hanegbi added.

The deal was signed last summer between Iran and six world powers, including the United States. Israel and many American Jewish groups fiercely opposed the deal.

In its statement Friday, the defense ministry said, “The Munich Agreement didn’t prevent the Second World War and the Holocaust precisely because its basis, according to which Nazi Germany could be a partner for some sort of agreement, was flawed, and because the leaders of the world then ignored the explicit statements of [Adolf] Hitler and the rest of Nazi Germany’s leaders.”

“These things are also true about Iran, which also clearly states openly that its aim is to destroy the state of Israel,” it said, pointing to a recent U.S. State Department report that determined that Iran is the number one state sponsor of terrorism worldwide.

Defending the deal on Thursday, amid allegations that the U.S. paid Iran $400 million as “ransom” to secure the release of American prisoners, Obama said the “Israeli military and security community … acknowledges this has been a game changer” and that “By all accounts, it has worked exactly the way we said it was going to work.”

Some high-level former and current Israeli defense figures have spoken out in favor of the deal, albeit with caveats.

Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said in January that the deal could present “opportunities” in the future but also raised concerns at the “challenges” it poses.

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