JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a security cabinet meeting Friday to discuss the immediate ramifications of the framework agreement announced by six world powers and Iran to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, a deal he said “would threaten the survival of Israel” and pave the way to an Iranian nuclear bomb.
Netanyahu, who has threatened to use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, spoke with President Obama on Thursday night and expressed Israel’s “vehement opposition” to the preliminary agreement, according to the prime minister’s office.
Netanyahu said the framework’s parameters “would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, bolster Iran’s economy, and increase Iran’s aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond.”
If finalized, the preliminary deal would not block Iran’s path to the bomb, he said. Rather, “it would pave it.”
Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz told reporters earlier that Israel would counter any Iranian nuclear threat through diplomacy and intelligence. But, he added, “if we have no choice, we have no choice. . . . The military option is on the table.”
Most Israeli commentators followed Netanyahu’s lead and condemned the deal. Some also blamed Netanyahu, arguing that the prime minister erred by antagonizing the White House and siding with Republicans, when he should have tried to partner with Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry to get a better deal.
Israel’s former national security adviser, Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, told Israel Radio on Friday that he thought it would be a mistake for Netanyahu to continue fighting the Iran deal through the Republican-controlled Congress.
“The result is that we won’t succeed and we’ll ruin our relations with the United States, and this will have a price in other areas, such as with the Palestinians,” he said.
Instead, Eiland said, Israel should accept the reality of the preliminary accord and work to influence its details “and not be kept out of the room.”
“The truth should be told,” columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. “This was a resounding failure for Israel. As the clash between Netanyahu and Obama on the Iranian issue heightened, Israel’s influence on the course of the negotiations and its outcome lessened.”
In a controversial address to Congress last month, in which he challenged President Obama’s efforts to strike a deal with Tehran, Netanyahu warned against a “bad deal.” He argued that more economic sanctions should be deployed against Iran, until the Islamic republic dismantles its uranium-enrichment program.
Now that a loose framework agreement has been reached, Israeli officials and defense analysts here say, Israel will press hard to persuade the United States and other nations involved in the negotiations — such as France, Germany and Britain — to either walk away from a final deal or insist on harsh measures to compel Iran to yield to intrusive oversight of its nuclear program.
“The most important thing that Israel can do now is to make sure that a deal with Iran can give as much . . . breakout time as possible,” said Meir Javedanfar, an expert on Iran at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, a college and research center. The breakout period refers to the time it would take for Iran to amass enough weapons-grade fissile material to make one nuclear bomb.
“Israel should make a push to see the deal is supervised and there are mechanisms in place to react as quickly as possible if Iran is caught cheating,” Javedanfar said.
Emily Landau, an expert in arms control at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said Israel and other countries concerned about an agreement — such as Saudi Arabia and other Sunni monarchies in the Persian Gulf — will try to persuade the negotiators to write a final deal that lays out very specifically how Iran will be monitored and what will happen to Tehran if its cheats on the agreement.
“Iran has a history of violating deals, with small actions that pile up into a changed reality,” Landau said. “In that case, what do you do? Who does it? Do you increase sanctions? Is it automatic? Who decides?”
Raphael Ofek, a former senior intelligence researcher and analyst in the prime minister’s office, said he assumed that Israel would appeal to its supporters in Congress — especially to Republican critics of the deal — to try to block or modify the accord, which is to be completed by the end of June.
But, he added: “What happens next is a very good question, and I am not sure anybody has an answer.”
Before the framework accord was announced, Netanyahu said the negotiation toward a deal “sends a message that there is no price to pay for aggression — on the contrary, Iran gets a prize for its aggression.”
“Moderate, responsible countries in the region, primarily Israel but other countries as well, will be the first to be harmed by this agreement,” he said.
Speaking in Washington after the agreement was announced, President Obama acknowledged Netanyahu’s concerns but disagreed with that assessment.
If “Netanyahu is looking for the most effective way to ensure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, this is the best option,” he told reporters.
“There is no daylight when it comes to our support for Israel’s security,” Obama said.
Daniela Deane in London contributed to this report.