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Why Iran Will Not Get the Bomb

12/04/2013 05:22 EST | Updated 02/03/2014 05:59 EST

Last week's interim deal in Geneva, to curb what all but the most blinkered commentators would call Iran's nuclear weapons program, is a fait accompli. That much is clear, and Israel's Labor Party has urged the current coalition government to begin mending some of the fences that were damaged during negotiations, when my country correctly -- though in Netanyahu's case perhaps without striking quite the right tone -- lobbied hard for a tough deal.

There are two takeaways from this deal. First, it is not a particularly good deal for the West. Second, Iran will not obtain nuclear weapons capability -- that is US policy and it is Israel's policy.

To the first point: the deal itself is weak. It will leave Iran with enough fissile material to build six to eight nuclear bombs, and all of its centrifuges. For agreeing merely to halt enrichment for six months, Iran is now sitting just 1-2 months from breakout capacity, according to the New York Times.

While many readers might be forgiven for believing that Iran's agreement to decommission its 20% enriched uranium is substantial, that optimism will be tempered by the fact that enriching uranium to a 5% concentration of Uranium 235 is seven-tenths of the work. Twenty per cent enrichment is 90% of the work. Getting to 90% enrichment from that point is an almost trivial matter.

While the Saudis have cautiously admitted that the deal could pave the way -- assuming "good intentions" -- to a comprehensive deal, they are now much more likely to take the decision to look to Pakistan or elsewhere to go nuclear themselves.

Rouhani's charm offensive in New York had Western leaders and diplomats scrambling to sign an accord with Tehran. Some have argued that it looked as if they couldn't get to Geneva fast enough.

The irony is that the election of a supposed Iranian moderate may have brought about a deal that could easily turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for the West, that could ultimately lead not only to a messianic nuclear theocracy, but also to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Imagine a Middle East with all the turbulence of the past, backed with nuclear weapons, with an ascendant lunatic regime at its epicenter.

Which brings us to the second point: Iran will not go nuclear. That does not mean simply that it is US policy or Israeli policy; after all, Pakistan and North Korea got the bomb despite all manner of policy and accord.

What it means is that Israel categorically will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, nor even a breakout capacity to produce those weapons. And Iran is already close.

Security experts have been debating for years how far Iran's program has advanced, and at precisely which point a strike on Iran's facilities will become absolutely necessary. But if continuing negotiations with Iran fail to halt and reverse Iran's nuclear program, a consensus in the security establishment here will crystallize around a strike.

To understand why we regard the matter so severely, you must realize that, while the Saudis and the Gulf states are also dead against a nuclear Iran, Israel is the number one target for the Iranians. The Iranian regime is a highly dogmatic, anti-Semitic, Israel-hating theocracy, and one thing Israelis do respect about the ayatollahs is that they mean what they say.

Indeed, nothing has changed since Rouhani replaced Ahmadinejad. Just a couple of weeks ago, in the heady days before the Geneva deal was concluded, Ayatollah Khamanei called Israel "a rabid dog" and said that we are "doomed to annihilation." Secretary of State John Kerry, whom I have a great deal of respect for, called these comments "inflammatory," saying that "the last thing we need is names back and forth."

I would go further than Secretary Kerry, and call these statements a continuation of years of genocidal incitement against my country. Iran has an inarguable history of calling Jewish nationalism a "germ of corruption" and Israel a "cancerous growth" which must be "wiped off the map." Neither the United Nations nor any other body has seen fit to meaningfully take Iran to task for it.

An Iran which is not just the leading state sponsor of terror, and the patron of Hezbollah which has tens of thousands of rockets pointed at Israel, but which also incites genocide against my country -- such a regime cannot be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons.

We hope and pray for the success of the negotiations with Iran, and we want a rollback of Iran's nuclear capabilities to begin as their result. But Iran's history of trickery and deceit make us skeptical, as does the history of rogue states such as North Korea going nuclear.

One way or the other, Iran will not obtain nuclear weapons. I hope that this can be achieved peacefully. But despite my many deep political disagreements with him, there is no daylight between Prime Minister Netanyahu and myself on the crux of this issue.

Deputy Knesset Speaker, MK Hilik Bar, is Secretary-General of the Israeli Labor Party, Chair of the Knesset Caucus to Resolve the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and Chair of the European Forum of the Knesset.

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