Naftali Bennett Meets John McCain in Washingt
Naftali Bennett Meets John McCain in WashingtShmulik Almany

Israeli and US officials continue to publicly spar over differences of opinion regarding a deal with a nuclear Iran. AFP reports that both Israeli officials from Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro have made highly public appeals to the media over the weekend in attempts to woo the public for each of their respective sides over the international proposition.

Naftali Bennett and other Jewish Home MKs have already embarked on a lobbying campaign to the US Congress in Washington this week to stop the US from approving a deal, which would reduce economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for a reduction in their nuclear capabilities. 

"I'm not telling the Americans what they should do; I just give them the information, it's for them to decide," Bennett told Israeli public radio by telephone on Friday. "It's not really lobbying, more a dialogue between friends," he said of his meetings on Capitol Hill and a speech to the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

On Thursday, Bennett urged politicians at a speech at the Brookings Saban Center not to back down in opposing an Iran deal. "We're two seconds from achieving our goal of dismantling Iran's nuclear program, now is not the time to ease up," he stated.

Also on Thursday, Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked spoke at a pro-Israel lobbying event, emphasizing Iran's ability to keep producing nuclear weapons even after accepting a deal. Iran's 18,000 centrifuges continue spinning, Shaked said, and "facilities like Parchin, where Iran has been working to build the nuclear weapon itself, remain off limits to United Nations inspectors."

Both MKs expressed the importance of the Jewish heritage and history in Israel, and the right for Israel to ensure its security despite international support.

The US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, has also been making his case in the Israeli media. Shapiro told public radio the high-profile war of words over a nascent deal Western powers are negotiating with Iran was regrettable. "It would be preferable if our differences were addressed in private, but sometimes that's not possible," he said.

In a speech to North American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem this week Shapiro insisted that Obama "has made it crystal clear that he will not permit Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, period, and is prepared to use all elements of our national power to ensure that we are successful."

Israeli Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan lashed out at Kerry on Thursday for slamming Netanyahu's intensive campaigning against the emerging nuclear deal with Iran. "I was astounded to hear John Kerry's remarks about why the prime minister is criticizing the agreement being formulated in Geneva without waiting for it to be signed," Erdan told an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv.

"When we're dealing with a country that wants to destroy Israel and the conditions that will enable it to carry out its wishes, what do they expect from the Israeli prime minister? Not to cry out when they're holding the knife, but only when it's at our throat?" he asked.

In a press release, Erdan also responded to a New York Times editorial published Saturday which attacks Israel for thwarting diplomatic efforts with the Islamic Republic. 

"Some claim that the proposed deal will require Iran to freeze its nuclear program for six months in exchange for mild sanctions relief. Neither assumption will hold," Erdan stated. "If Iran refuses to dismantle centrifuges and its plutonium reactor and to stop enrichment now, why would it agree to do so after the pressure on it has been reduced?"

"To freeze its program, Iran would not only have to stop the construction of its plutonium-producing heavy water reactor and add no further centrifuges.  It would also have to halt all uranium enrichment, which Iran refuses to do. An agreement that allows Iran to continue enrichment of material for nuclear bombs while talks go on will not freeze Iran's nuclear program."

The verbal war comes amid recent reports that the US and Iran are very close to a deal. Talks are officially set to resume in Geneva on November 20.