Hanegbi: ‘Iran Deal Won’t Be Torn Apart’
WASHINGTON – A close confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tzachi Hanegbi, currently the Likud Minister of Regional Cooperation, arrived in the US capital last week to meet with Congressional officials and attend a Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy (WINEP) seminar. With police investigations against the Israeli premier for alleged corruption intensifying, Ma’ariv and Al-Monitor columnist Ben Caspit wrote on Sunday that Netanyahu would likely select Hanegbi as his replacement if he were forced to step down.
During his time in Washington, Hanegbi spoke with Jewish Insider about the Iran deal, settlement construction and recent legislation to defund the United Nations stemming from its December resolution condemning Israel. While President Donald Trump had called his “number one priority to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” Hanegbi clarified that such a move is not a “realistic demand.” The Likud minister added, “The US can withdraw from the agreement, but it is not going to make the agreement disappear or torn apart.”
Hanegbi declined to comment directly on the legislation pushed by GOP Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) about completely defunding the UN in response to the December Security Council vote. “I feel that it is not going to be wise on my part to give suggestions to the United States,” he noted. At the same time, Hanegbi added, “There are several ways to repair it. Not all of them are militant. Some of them can be through diplomacy.”
(Editor’s note: The interview was conducted before the White House statement on settlements)
Jewish Insider: Last week you said, “Nobody, I think, in Israel is really calling for tearing the JCPOA agreement (Iran deal) apart.” Why is this the case?
Tzachi Hanegbi: “Because it is not realistic since it’s not only an American-Iranian agreement. It’s an agreement that was signed by the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany and it was adopted by the United Nations and the European Union and by most countries in the world. The US can withdraw from the agreement, but it is not going to make the agreement disappear or be torn apart. So that is not a realistic demand.”
JI: In response to the UN Security Council vote in December against Israeli settlements, should the US cut off all of its assistance to the international body? (Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have introduced legislation to end American assistance to the UN)
Hanegbi: “I feel that it is not going to be wise on my part to give suggestions to the United States what is the right way to repair the devastating damage that was done with this resolution. There are several ways to repair it. Not all of them are militant. Some of them can be through diplomacy. We know the target: to make this resolution disappear. How to do it? As I said, there are various options.”
JI: Have you met with any Trump Administration official while you are in Washington?
Hanegbi: “I am concentrating during my visit only on the Congress and the forum that was convened by the Washington Institute.”
JI: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to build 3,000 settlement homes in the West Bank in addition to 2,500 units last week. Do you see this new construction surge in response to the new Trump presidency?
Hanegbi: “I really don’t know why it was announced. I remember many protests of the last Administration so I am sure there were several occasions of such announcements. I don’t know why they were in week one [of the Trump admin] but I think that the administration understands that the way to go forward is to advance the negotiations and go back to discussing the issues. Once you have the solution, and you have final arrangements and two states for two people solution, there are not settlements anymore. There is a border and there is Palestine and Israel. This is a major understanding of the current administration.”