By David Daoud
Israel has turned to France in order to prevent what it considers an unfavorable nuclear deal with Iran from emerging, Reuters reported on Sunday.
Top Israeli envoys were sent to Paris to confer with their French counterparts after tensions arose between France and the United States over negotiation strategy, leading the Israelis to find an ally in the leading European power.
According to the report, France seems to be the best hope for Israel at a time when the Jewish state’s relations with the American administration are tense. AFP reports that France’s officials have been stridently opposed to the direction of the current negotiations and are greatly concerned about signing a deal that would grant too much relief to Tehran.
European officials have noted that if Paris has its way, the deal would be signed for 25 years, in contrast to the United States which is only aiming for a deal that would expire in a decade.
Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, Yuval Steinitz, told Israel radio that he is flying to Paris on short notice, and may also hold meetings with other European countries to state Israel’s concerns. “This is an effort to prevent a [nuclear] deal that is bad and full of loopholes, or at least…to succeed in closing or amending some of these loopholes,” said Steinitz, who is being accompanied by Israeli National Security Advisor Yossi Cohen.
Israeli officials have long considered France as the negotiating power whose views are closest to Israel’s on the outcome of a nuclear deal with Iran. Steinitz said, that “the French helped us a great deal,” crediting Paris with pushing for the curbs on Iran’s mid-level enrichment of uranium to 20 percent fissile purity in the preliminary nuclear deal agreed in November 2013.
The United States and France are also at odds over the negotiations, with the United States expressing its private displeasure over France’s outspoken criticism of the negotiating process and its demands for more stringent restrictions on Iran. France’s Ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud, has been particularly vocal, criticizing the March 31 deadline for a framework deal as a “counterproductive” and “bad tactic.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has taken a hard-line stance on negotiations with Iran, even phoning his team during the last round of negotiations to ensure that they made no more concessions. Fabius said that France wants the agreement with Iran to ensure that the Islamic Republic will not be able to produce a nuclear weapon.
American diplomats are concerned that France will block the deal at the United Nations. France, which also holds veto power at the UN Security Council, has been stridently opposed to lifting sanctions on Iran at an early stage, a position which the Iranians are making a pre-condition to signing a final deal, Israel’s NRG reported.
Fabius ordered his country’s representatives not to be flexible on the matter, saying that, “France wants an agreement, but a strong agreement, that is, one that will ensure that Iran will only have a civilian nuclear capability, but not the capability to produce an atomic bomb.”
Yet, the French also don’t fully see eye-to-eye with the Israelis, and have downplayed the sway Israel holds in Paris, saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu had overplayed his hand in his March 3 speech to Congress, according to Lebanon’s Daily Star.
A senior French diplomat said that Netanyahu’s speech, which called for a total rollback of Iran’s nuclear technology, had diminished Israel’s clout. The diplomat said that, “Israel had marginalized itself. In November 2013 we were working with them and they played the game. They didn’t take unrealistic positions. But here they have gone too far. We told them to play their part so they could influence the final accord, but they have taken unrealistic positions.”