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Hagel Credits Israel with Bringing Iran to the Table

"I think that Iran is responding to the constant pressure from Israel, knowing that Israel believes them to be an existential threat.”
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 11/5/2013, 8:00 AM

Hagel, Netanyahu
Hagel, Netanyahu
Israel news photo: Flash 90

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gave Israel credit Monday for much of the pressure that has been brought to bear on Iran, regarding its nuclear weapons program. In an interview with Hagel, Bloomberg.com's Jeffrey Goldberg asked whether it was true that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is using “fear tactics” in order to torpedo Iran negotiations – as Secretary of State John Kerry hinted in a statement last week.

“I think Prime Minister Netanyahu is legitimately concerned, as any prime minister of Israel has been, about the future security needs of their country,” Hagel said. Netanyahu, he continued, “has got a history of being very clear on where he is on this.”

Kerry had said that “some have suggested that somehow there's something wrong" with giving diplomacy a chance, and vowed – “We will not succumb to those fear tactics and forces that suggest otherwise.”

But Netanyahu’s threats of military action against Iranian nuclear sites, combined with the pressure of sanctions, may have actually encouraged Iran to take negotiations seriously, Hagel explained.

“It’s true that sanctions – not just U.S. sanctions but UN sanctions, multilateral sanctions – have done tremendous economic damage,” he said. “Even many of Iran’s leaders have acknowledged that. And I think that Iran is responding to the constant pressure from Israel, knowing that Israel believes them to be an existential threat. I think all of this, combined, probably brought the Iranians to where we are today. Whether the Iranians will carry forth on that, we’ll see.”

Regarding the hint that Netanyahu is trying to torpedo negotiations with Iran, Hagel said: “I don’t think he’s intentionally trying to derail negotiations.”

The second round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 states is to be held in Geneva again this week.

The West is planning to offer Iran an incentive that would provide it with some sanctions relief without actually relieving the sanctions, reports the London Times.