Press Call: Bibi’s Address to Congress

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Press Call: Bibi’s Address to Congress

Iran Showdown: Bibi’s Address to Congress

Hosted by NSN and Rethink Media
March 2, 2015 at 3:00 pm EST

Controversy continues to swirl around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s joint address before Congress. Accepting Speaker Boehner’s invitation without the consultation of the White House weeks before the Israeli elections breached protocol and aimed to politicize the special relationship between Israel and the U.S. As negotiations between the international community and Iran continue with the hopes of reaching a successful conclusion in the near future, Bibi’s address has the potential to scuttle progress and to convince members of Congress to reject any final deal reached between the P5+1 and Iran.

The manner in which this invitation was extended without White House knowledge and the fallout since its announcement has major implications not only for the strategic relationship between the United States and Israel, but also the Iran nuclear negotiations overall.

Please join us for a press call with experts Former Israeli Brig. General Shlomo Brom with the Center for American Progress, Matthew Duss of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, Ilan Goldenberg from the Center for New American Security, and Dylan J. Williams of J Street as they discuss Netanyahu, his upcoming speech, Congressional action, and what this means for the Iran nuclear negotiations.


Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom is a Visiting Fellow with the National Security and International Policy team at American Progress, where his work focuses on U.S.-Israeli relations, Middle East security issues, and the Iranian nuclear program. Brig. Gen. Brom is also a senior researchassociate at The Institute for National Security Studies and a former brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF. His most senior post in the IDF was director of the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Branch of the General Staff. Brig. Gen. Brom participated in peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Jordan, and Syria and in Middle Eastern regional security talks during the 1990s. He continued to be involved in track II dialogues on these subjects after his retirement from the IDF. He was named deputy to the Israeli national security advisor in 2000. From 2005 to 2006, Brig. Gen. Brom was a member of the Meridor Committee established by the Israeli minister of defense to re-examine Israel’s security strategy and doctrine. His primary areas of research are Israeli-Palestinian relations and national security doctrine. [Full bio here]

Matthew Duss is the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Previously he was a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, where his work focused on the Middle East and U.S. national security, and director of the Center’s Middle East Progress program. He received an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies, and a B.A. in political science from the University of Washington. Matt Duss Twitter [Full bio here]

Ilan Goldenberg is is Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He is a foreign policy and defense expert with extensive government experience covering Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the broader challenges facing the Middle East. Prior to CNAS, Mr. Goldenberg served as the Chief of Staff to the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations at the U.S. Department of State. In that position, he has played a key leadership role with the small team supporting Secretary Kerry’s initiative to conduct permanent status peace negotiations between Israelisand Palestinians. Ilan Goldenberg Twitter [Full bio here]

Dylan J. Williams is the Director of Government Affairs for J Street, a political organization for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans fighting for the future of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Dylan joined J Street after serving as Counsel for Foreign Relations, Trade and Immigration to US Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Dylan brings more than a decade of experience advising US government officials and private clients on international affairs and law. Dylan Williams Twitter [Full bio here]


John Bradshaw is is the Executive Director of the National Security Network. Prior to joining NSN, he served as the Executive Director of the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress. Bradshaw served as Washington Director of Physicians for Human Rights and also worked as a Senior Advisor at the Open Society Policy Center. Previously, Mr. Bradshaw was aForeign Service Officer, serving in Venezuela, Brazil, and Burma, as well as in the State Department’s East Asia and Human Rights bureaus. He also served as a foreign policy advisor to Senator Paul Wellstone and to Senator Robert Torricelli, both members of the Foreign Relations Committee. [Full bio here] 


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To listen to the audio, click here.

Please note that the audio starts at 00:17:30 and ends at 00:59:47

JOHN BRADSHAW, NSN: Good afternoon everyone. This is John Bradshaw, I’m the Executive Director of the National Security Network. We are hosting today’s call along with Rethink Media. We have four panelists who will each give a brief presentation then we will open the floor up to questions. Let me go briefly through the panelists, you should have the full bios with you, but just a quick rundown. Our first speaker will be Dylan Williams who is the Director of Government Affairs for J Street, which as you know is a political organization for pro-Israel pro-peace Americans. Our second speaker will be Ilan Goldenberg who is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). He has extensive experience covering Iran’s  nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Third we will have Matthew Duss, the President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). He was previously a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. Then we will have Retired Brigadier General Shlomo Brom who is a visiting fellow with the National Security International Policy team at the Center for American Progress (CAP) and previously when he was with the Israeli Defense Forces was the Director of Strategic Planning in the Planning Branch of the General Staff.

We will start off with Dylan who will talk a little bit about U.S. domestic politics and how the Jewish American community is reacting to Bibi Netanyahu’s visit and his speeches. Then we will turn it over to Ilan Goldenberg who will talk about what may be in a final deal and why that would be a good deal, and he’s also just recently returned from Israel and will give some insights that he gained from his trip. Next will be Matt Duss, who will talk about regional views, regional reactions to a prospective deal and also about some of the comments that have been made about Iran’s messianic and apocalyptic role in the region. Then we will finish with Brig. Gen. Brom who will talk about tensions in Israel and the impact of the current deal and Bibi’s visit on the U.S.-Israeli relationship. All the speakers, of course, will talk a little bit about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit.

After we have the presentations we will open the floor for questions. You don’t need to get into a queue or push any particular number, we’ll just open the floor and we have a manageable number of reporters, so please when the time comes, state your name and your outlet, make sure you keep your phone on mute when you are not asking questions. So with that, we will start off with Dylan Williams from J Street. Go ahead Dylan.

DYLAN WILLIAMS, J STREET: [20:38] Great thanks so much John. I want to start off on the subject of the view of this speech in Congress and in the U.S. pro-Israel community.  In both Congress and the U.S. pro-Israel community, there is great discomfort with the timing of the speech and the way it was engineered. It’s perceived that this was done behind the President’s back, without the knowledge of Democratic leadership or members in Congress, and so it started off as a very problematic gambit on part of both Speaker Boehner and the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

[21:21] The reason for this discomfort that’s only become amplified in recent weeks is that this gambit is perceived as bad for the U.S./Israel special relationship. It turns a policy disagreement over dealing with Iran into a partisan struggle that could alter the very nature of the United States/ Israel special relationship. And moreover it does it for reasons that are seen as unnecessary by a large number of Democratic members of Congress and as well as pro-Israel Americans. You’ve seen a number of pro-Israel Americans come out very early after the announcement, groups such as Anti-Defamation League, J Street and others saying that perhaps the speech should be delayed beyond the Israeli election and beyond the consideration by Congress of legislation related to the ongoing Iran negotiations.

[22:29] Most members of Congress and the vast majority of the pro-Israel community realize that everyone in the modern world knows what Netanyahu thinks about the Iran negotiations. It’s inconceivable that members of Congress who receive press clippings every day and forever on their Blackberries are unaware of where the prime minister stands on the issue of progress in talks. So they’re left to ask what is the speech really about. Given the timing of the speech, you know many members of Congress and pro-Israel Americans realize that this speech is about Netanyahu’s political fortunes and using Congress as a backdrop to advance his own standing ahead of hotly contested Israeli elections.

[23:27] And the loser in all this is once again the U.S.-Israel special relationship. Now on the subject of Iran, there is no disagreement among anyone,  in Congress or in the pro-Israel community about the seriousness of the threat a nuclear-armed Iran would pose. But if Netanyahu really wants to talk Iran, what he needs to answer for members of Congress is the question of what is his alternative to the diplomacy he is challenging. Members of Congress have been saying openly that if the prime minister is asking for a war, that’s something he needs to say very clearly, cause the alternative to successful negotiations in the minds of many in Congress is military action. A military action that both Israeli and U.S. intelligence and security experts believe may not be successful in preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and in fact might even spur it to engage in activities that would accelerate elements of its program that could be used to make a nuclear weapon. And so that’s what they’re really wondering because at the end of the day members of Congress see this issue through the prism of whether or not they are ultimately going to have to authorize the use of force against Iran. They see it through the prism of their votes on Iraq and whether or not they are once again going to have to take responsibility for another U.S. military action.

[25:10] And so when Prime Minister Netanyahu does come and address most of Congress tomorrow that’s what’s going to be on their minds. And I say most of Congress because as of maybe 20 minutes ago the count that I had was that at least 46 members of Congress have publicly said that are not attending his speech and I anticipate that there will be at least a dozen or 2 dozen more who end up not attending as well. And with that John, I think I’ll turn it back to you.

BRADSHAW: [Introduction for Ilan Goldenberg, CNAS]

ILAN GOLDENBERG, CNAS: [25:48] Thanks John, and it is great to be here. What I want to do is layout what Netanyahu might say tomorrow more substantively on the specifics of the nuclear program, beyond what he said today which is I think a more anodyne and restrained version – he really didn’t get into this level of detail.

[26:11] First thing I think it is important to remember is that the Prime Minister does not have the best track record in terms of judging the Iranian nuclear program and judging American diplomacy. A year ago when the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) was announced the Prime Minister came out very famously and said this is a bad deal, the United States gets nothing and Iran gets everything – I think it might have been the P5+1 gets nothing and Iran gets everything. A year later, Iran’s nuclear program has remained frozen and the sanctions have remained in place. and all the things Netanyahu warned about in terms of the sanctions regime unraveling and Iran continuing to enrich uranium and getting even closer to a bomb – none of those things have come true. So I think that is an important measure, and in fact at this point he is now campaigning to basically maintain the status quo and maintain what he thought was the deal of the century for Iran.

[27:09]This is a starting point, this isn’t the first time too. We go back a couple of years at the UN General Assembly where he very boldly drew a red line on that cartoon of the bomb and said ‘this is the red line’ one bomb’s worth 0f 20% low-enriched uranium (LEU), despite the fact that the Administration had been saying that drawing a red line didn’t make a lot of sense. and low and behold, what did the Iranians do in response to Netanyahu’s red line? They did start oxidizing and reducing some of their 20%, but they also dramatically increased other areas of the program that weren’t addressed by his red line. In other words, he created a zone of permission for them,  put one red line in one place and left flexibility in all kinds of other areas. It was a very poorly conceived policy. So this is the track record you are dealing with.

Now, Netanyahu would argue as Dylan said for the perfect deal — the deal where Iran has no nuclear capability whatsoever. And I would love the perfect deal, I know the Obama Administration would also love the perfect deal, so would many many people. The problem is it just does not exist. It is not realistic.

[28:13]And so what is an adequate deal? In my view an adequate deal is one that puts in place conditions that will deter Iran from ever pursuing a nuclear weapon. Not because they don’t have any capabilities to do it, but because they are so far away from a bomb that any attempt by them to try to get to a bomb is just too risky and is too likely to result in quickly being caught by the international community and then attacked either by the United States, Israel or some kind of international coalition. Some of those conditions in place, as long as it is too risky, too difficult for the Iranians to ever go for it, they will be deterred from actually doing it. Indeed, this has been the approach for years. They have been trying to get closer and closer [28:58] to a weapon without actually ever going for it because they knew that the risks of going for it were too high. Now the idea is to push them back so far and to keep them, and put the mechanisms in place to ensure that they never really have the opportunity to do it.

So that requires three things. First, it requires on the overt path having Iran a year or more away from being able to “dash to a weapon” using its known facilities. And actually in reality that would only be enough nuclear material for one weapon, so the reality is that no nuclear state is going to just dash to one weapon because you have to be able to blow that weapon up and demonstrate it and still have others. so really when the Obama Administration talks about one year, that is one year to one bomb… the much more likely scenario is a small arsenal which means a couple of years to get there. which is enough time for the international community to catch them.

[29:54] The other key element here is making sure that Iran cant use the covert pathways to a bomb. in other words, start by essentially using secret facilities that have not been monitored or caught by anybody and go all the way to a weapon to surprise everyone one day. So to cut off that option negotiators are working on putting in place the most rigorous inspection regime that has ever been in place for any country around the world, and that is the only way I think they will negotiate an agreement. And the good news here is that it is really hard to use a covert pathway to a bomb. Indeed Iran has already tried this twice with Natanz and Fordow. Both of those facilities started as covert facilities until they were caught by Western intelligence agencies years before they were ready to actually come online. The good news is it’s really hard to do this, they haven’t been able to do this in the past, and the types of mechanisms that would be put in place in the aftermath of a deal would make it virtually impossible

[30:58] The third piece is holding the Iranians accountable for any failure to implement the agreement, or if after the 15 year sunset period, when they are still obligated by the nonproliferation treaty, to making sure that Iran is deterred from waiting out that 15 year period then at that point going for a bomb. Here is actually probably Israel’s strongest argument, the one that they make the most actually the one where actually Netanyahu’s error in terms of what he is doing here in terms of alienating the Administration is most damaging, because what I found when I was in Israel talking to folks, especially in the security establishment, was those great anxieties about the deal and specifically about this point also there was also great anxiety about Netanyahu’s approach. Because the way you do this, the way Israel has done this in the past and the traditional smart thing to do would be for Israeli experts to come sit down with American experts in the security dialogue to walk through okay, we are really concerned about how the deal might be violated and lets walk through together what the consequences of a violation by Iran might look like, defining what a violation is and trying to put these things in place and maybe at that point even considering putting some of that in congressional legislation that makes very clear to Iran what the consequences of violating the deal are. That is a much more productive use of joint Israeli-U.S. cooperation on a question like Iran that could help both of us both get to a better place. But instead of doing that, Netanyahu is essentially burning the bridge. Israel, who has had a very important seat at the table the last few years even if it has not been in the negotiations it has been right outside of them with the United States. and this has had significant influence, and he has basically turned this seat over and walked out of the room. And I think that in Israel amongst the security establishment, there is great anxiety about this. they don’t necessarily see the deal that is being negotiated as the ideal outcome, but they think that there are ways to work with this Administration to make it better, and they think there are ways to overcome our differences. And instead of doing that what Netanyahu has done is making that almost impossible. [33:21]

BRADSHAW: Thanks a lot Ilan. Our next speaker will be Matt Duss from the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Go ahead Matt.

MATTHEW DUSS, FMEP: [33:32] Thanks so much John and thanks everyone for joining this call. I just want to briefly address some of the regional implications here and then address one in particular line of argument that I think we are likely to hear from Netanyahu tomorrow.

[33:45] So the first is on what some of the other states in the region, the Arab Sunni states feel about this negotiation. I think Arab states have indicated over the past several years serious concerns over the deal but I think that needs to be seen in context of concern about a possible change in the relationship and the improvement of the relationship between the U.S. and Iran and how that might impact Sunni Arab states’ regional position. I think it’s also gets to the extent to which some of the conflicts ongoing in the region are part of a battle for influence between Sunni Arab states and the Shia Republic of Iran. We’ve seen this play out in Syria, Iraq, more recently in Yemen with Sunni states and Iran supporting different sides in their ongoing bids for influence. I think it’s clear that Iran has been able to exploit some of the regional instability in a bid to increase its influence, but it’s also clear that the one of the main triggers of that instability was the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an invasion I think it’s good to remember that Netanyahu himself supported and actually testified before Congress in 2002 and insisted that “it will have enormous positive reverberations in the region.” As Secretary of State Kerry reminded  us last week, that’s not exactly how it worked out.

[35:00] I also want to mention here that in voicing concerns on Iran the Saudis themselves said that as they move forward on the Iran issue, they stress to the Israeli government that they would like to see progress on the Palestinian issue, a view shared across the region but also by candidates in the Zionist camp like Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni the understanding being that irresolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict creates a very low ceiling on Israel’s relationship with other regional states. This is something that Netanyahu has tended to downplay and you know it’s important to recognize that while people can overstate the significance of the Palestinian issue in the region, it is the one that continues to have a good deal of salience for Arab publics.

[35:45] So to get to this one line of argument that I think we’ll hear from Netanyahu. This is the apocalyptic mullah’s argument, what I refer to as the “martyr state myth” which is the idea that Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran is uniquely immune to the cost-benefit analysis that underpins conventional deterrence simply by virtue of being religious Shiites. You know that you can seek different quotes pulled out of context from different Iranian leaders referring to the 12th Imam and you know this is used to kind of make this argument that if and when Iran gets a nuclear weapon they would immediately use it on Israel, and they wouldn’t care if that meant the destruction of Iran because they have this very apocalyptic end times mindset. But I think if you look at Iran’s actual behavior clearly they have aggressively used and they have a lot of  deeply extensive and problematic policies, support for terrorism etc. But this view of Iran’s behavior, this martyr state myth rests on some pretty radical claims about Iran’s goals and behavior that really defy conventional expectations of states’ actions. No government in recorded history has willfully pursued policies that it knows will cause its own destruction. I think more to the point that we should understand that this disagrees with both U.S. and Israeli  intelligence consensus, which holds that Iran behaves according to a rational cost-benefit analysis and this is precisely the analysis of the P5+1, the U.S., and its partners have been trying to influence with these negotiations.

[37:18] As Ilan said we would all love to see a perfect deal, remove any possibility 100% that Iran will would create a nuclear weapon, that’s not one of the available options here. But the question is whether we want the U.S. and its partners to walk away from a good enough deal that puts Iran’s program under very heavy inspections and moves it further away from a possible nuclear weapon and increases by far the likelihood that we would detect any attempts to get a weapon in the hopes that we might possibly get a slightly better deal in the future. That seems to be the argument that Netanyahu and some of his supporters are making. I don’t think that it’s a very good one. So, I’ll turn it back to you now John.

BRADSHAW: Thanks Matt, so our last speaker on the panel is Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom. Go ahead Shlomo.

BRIG. GEN. SHLOMO BROM, CAP: [38:25] if the whole perception that all Israelis are united behind Netanyahu is wrong, because for a number of years there is a big debate in Israel concerning the Iranian nuclear program, it is a debate in which political leaders dueled on this, and retired security personnel, because security persons cannot present their positions of their political leadership as long as they are in active duty, they have presented the views that were quite different from the views of the Prime Minister. And now no one in Israel wants Iran to become a nuclear power, but the debate is on the nature of the threat of nuclear Iran, on its place on the list of priorities of the state of Israel, and on the way it should be dealt with.

[39:51] I’ll start with the nature of the threat. Netanyahu says quite consistently that it is an existential threat, that nuclear Iran threatens the survival of Israel. Many Israelis don’t accept this proposition, they think that the Iranians are quite nuclear and they think they are quite rational and they think that a state like Israel that is perceived as a nuclear power does not have to be so much concerned about the possibility that Iran will drop an atomic bomb on Israel the minute it will have this capability. They believe the Iranians deterred. However, as I said, they would like Iran not to be a nuclear power because of indirect results of Iran becoming a nuclear power. One of them is rampant nuclear proliferation in the Middle East that would be very problematic and unstable Middle East. Another possibility is a growing power and influence of Iran that is playing a very anti-Israeli role and is supportive of terrorist organizations that operate against Israel, and et cetera, et cetera. That is the first point of contention.

[41:40] The second one is concerning the list of priorities of the State of Israel. While the Prime Minister of Israel presents himself as a one-issue person, where Iran is the only real problem and we need to focus only on Iran. Other people in Israel believe that there are other issues that are much more important such as the relationship with the Palestinians that really poses an existential threat in that it threatens the identity of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and they believe that Netanyahu by singling out the Iranian nuclear program as important actually avoids dealing with the other very real issues. The third point of contention is the way it should be dealt with. And that is the direct result of the debate of the nature of the threat, because if, like Netanyahu, you believe that it is an existential threat, then your immediate conclusion is that anything, really anything should be done to prevent it from being realized. [43:12] But if you don’t think its an existential threat, you think it is a very serious problem that should  be dealt with but not an existential one, then you should make calculations, rational calculations, of benefits and costs. And avoid taking steps that are arming major interests of the state of Israel. For example, avoiding causing Iran to the strategic relationship between the state of Israel and the United States. And if that is the position that you should prefer working with the U.S., on ways, on devising an agreement that would be good enough. It will not be perfect, it will not be, maybe, the good agreement, that Netanyahu is thinking about when he is talking about a good agreement, but it will be good enough to deter Iran from dashing out to a nuclear weapon. Thank you, and I return it to you, John.

BRADSHAW: [44:32] Thank you very much Shlomo. We will now open up the floor for questions from reporters. You do not need to press any particular button; you can just take yourself off mute and ask a question. Please state your name and the name of the outlet you are representing and you can direct your question to anyone on the panel or to the whole panel. Please keep your phones on mute when you are not asking a question.

ROB KAMPEAS, JTA: [45:15] I wanted to ask Dylan if he could repeat the number of democrats he thinks won’t be coming tomorrow?

WILLIAMS: [45:25] Sure Ron, so far 45 Democratic members and 1 Republican have said they are not attending tomorrow, and I think that it is likely that one to two dozen more  may not end up attending.

KAMPEAS: [45:45] Is there a running list I can see? The last I had heard there was 34, so that is quite a leap, and who is the Republican?

WILLIAMS: [45:55]The Republican is Walter Johns of North Carolina, I’d be happy to forward you a list right after this.

KAMPEAS: [46:00]That would be great, thank you.

DOYLE MCMANUS, LA TIMES: [46:15] I’d like to ask Ilan, and anyone else that would like to chime in, to expand a little on the sunset clause in the outlines that we have seen of an agreement. Particularly how you think the administration could, or is, reassuring members of Congress and friends of Israel on that point, which is being viewed as a permission slip for Iran to break out legally in 15 years.

GOLDENBERG: [46:54] Sure Doyle, I am happy to address that. I think there are a few things to remember about this 15 year time frame. First is that after 15 years Iran isn’t scot-free, they are still obliged by the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) which still has a number of limitations in place. I image any deal will involve them accepting and ratifying the additional protocol permanently. So this idea that after 15 years they are free to do whatever they want, I think, is a bit of a stretch. What the deal basically says is if you meet your obligations — the whole reason Iran is in this situation is that it violated its international obligations under the NPT in the first place — so the basic construct, which has interestingly been in place since about 2007-2008, it was under the Bush Administration that this agreement was made and this language was put together with the P5+1 which basically says, if Iran meets its international obligations, it can once again become a member in good standing inside the NPT. So this is something that in some ways the Obama Administration was stuck with in terms of the negotiations. It goes back long before its time.

[48:00] But there are things the Administration can do outside of the agreement, and can also do with the Israelis to address this. [48:11] The most important one is actually putting in place some public markers, whether it be through congressional legislation or public statements, about how it defines violations of the agreement and the types of consequences Iran would face. I think you could know everything from the types of economic sanctions Iran might face to what would be a trigger for considering military action. And the fact that those things would remain in place even after an agreement is one way to address this question of the sunset clause.

[48:42] The other thing to just remember, and I don’t advocate making policy on this basis but it is a scenario that I think is quite likely in the aftermath of a deal. The Supreme Leader is a very old guy, he is 75, when this deal expires he will be 90 and most likely he will have passed from the scene by then. Nobody knows who will come next. Everybody knows that the Supreme Leader is relatively anti-Western and is closed minded, very skeptical, hard-liner, and fundamentally the Iran-U.S. relationship is not going to change as long as he is running the country. But a deal does empower Rouhani and other pragmatists like Rafsanjani within the system. Now when the Supreme Leader passes, I think there is a much better chance, if we get a deal, that we will have more pragmatic leadership take over in Tehran. That is not to say you will have democrats (with a lower-case d) running around, and we are going to have freedom and democracy in Iran. But you are more likely to have this pragmatic group represented by people like Rouhani will have a lot more influence, in terms of where they value the cost benefit of going for a nuclear weapon versus being accepted by the international community. So you can’t bank on that scenario, but it is a relatively reasonable likelihood scenario that I probably put at 50/50. So those are ways to think about the sunset clause to offset so many concerns.

BROM: [50:15] If I may chime in, I think that the main concern of those that are anxious because of the sunset clause is that one of the possible interpretations that Iran can be able, like any other member of the NPT, the limitation on the number of centrifuges and the limitation on the amount of the low-enriched uranium (LEU) that can stay in Iraq will be raised, and Iran will start to accumulating this vast quantities of LEU and a large number of centrifuge of better quality and that will shorten to a much extent the breakout time. While it is a serious concern, one that we should not dismiss offhandedly,  but what I can say about it is, what the Iranians will do right after their 15 years will give indications of their intention even before they start the breakout. We will see whether they are accumulating this very large numbers of centrifuges and low enriched materials and then the international community and the United States and Israel, as central members of the international community that we need concerns a Iranian nuclear program, will have to decide what to do.

BRADSHAW: [52:15] Thank you Shlomo. Just let me add one other thing that is responsive to the question Doyle asked. The Administration, when they are trying to sell this when they are briefing the media and briefing members of Congress, what they say is we are getting a package of things to this deal on centrifuges, enrichment, and transparency — and the transparency part is a huge part of the deal. That will continue after the 15 years are up. So that is how they are trying to sell it, or reassure people that at the backend of this deal all the transparency will be there. We will have 15 more years of digging into Iran’s nuclear program, so we will know it better and will still have the transparency.

Does anyone else on the panel want to answer that question, or should we move on? Okay, next question from a reporter please.

ARU PANDE, VOA: [53:22] How much, if any, of the personal relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu has had an effect on the current circumstances of where the U.S.-Israel relationship is now in terms of the current tensions of him giving the speech before Congress — how much has the personal relationship been a factor, if any?

DUSS: [53:55] I will be very brief, clearly they have had a bumpy relationship from the start. Both are mature and have tried to take steps to address it at certain times. but I think the bottom line here is this is much more of a policy dispute than it is a  personal disagreement. I think that Netanyahu and Obama both genuinely believe that their countries’ security interests are served in different ways. I think it is pretty fair to say they both represent genuine constituencies in their own countries, but I think it is clear that the way that Netanyahu has gone about this speech and demonstrated his disapproval of the agreement is very clearly outside the bounds of normal practice.

WILLIAMS: [54:50] I’ll associate myself with Matt’s, they are 100% correct and I’ll just note that whatever personal difference there might have been between these two leaders over the years, President Obama has presided over the greatest level of U.S. support foreign cooperation with Israel and its security establishment in our nations’ histories and that makes the Prime Minister’s gambit to speak to Congress initially behind the President’s back all the more problematic. This is a close ally who this Administration throughout negotiations with Iran has shared very sensitive information, and in response had sensitive U.S. intelligence leaked, distorted and disregarded by that ally. That is an outrage and I think it really speaks volumes about the fact that no matter how supportive this President can be of Israel, there are those including the Prime Minister, who will try and make him seem insufficiently supportive.

BRADSHAW: [56:10] Just a quick follow up for you, Matt and others. At the AIPAC convention today the Prime Minister’s speech was almost completely damage control, talking about how important the relationship was and how it has always weathered storms before and how it will get back on track. I wonder from your perspective do you think that was effective, or will be effective and do you think he will try and do something similar in Congress about trying to heal this bridge that has opened up?

WILLIAMS: [56:55] I think that could be this year’s subtheme of this year’s large conference taking place at the Convention Center is damage control. And I do think, to some extent, that there will be a large chunk of the Prime Minister’s speech in Congress tomorrow devoted to reiterating the strong and historic ties, and even the support this President has provided to Israel for the security of its citizens. But I also think that to be sure language will then transition very decisively into the meat of the fundamental policy disagreement.

DUSS: [57:38] If I can quickly follow up here with something Shlomo was saying, I think it is easy to see this in two ways. One, it has been promoted or seen as a dispute between Netanyahu and President Obama – and I don’t think that is right. We are talking about President Obama and the U.S. as part of a coalition of the P5+1. This is a fairly strong international consensus behind this deal , and I think that is what Netanyahu is opposing. Also, getting back to the point made earlier about the Israeli security establishment, the view of the Israeli intelligence services is toward Iran, toward the nuclear deal, and toward its intentions. It is really important to stress that Israeli intelligence and U.S. intelligence are in a pretty strong agreement here about a lot of the key issues here and it is Netanyahu himself who is the outlier to this consensus.

BRADSHAW: [closing remarks]


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Photo Credit: P5+1 Ministers Sit With Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Delegation Amid Iran Nuclear Negotiations in Vienna [State Department photo, 11/24/2014]

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Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) [U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Orrell, 3/3/11]Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the UN General Assembly [Photo by UNIC/ John Gillespie, 9/27/2012]