- Nuclear negotiations extended until tomorrow, as P5+1 make several key concessions and Iran hardens its positions
Negotiations to achieve a framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program will be extended until tomorrow, following several days of negotiations in which the P5+1 made several key concessions to Iran, while Iran backtracked from previous compromises and hardened its positions. The U.S. had set March 31st as the deadline for the release of a framework understanding, with June 30th as the final deadline for a detailed comprehensive agreement.
Although the P5+1 had demanded that the enrichment facility at Fordow be shut down, according to reports, they will now permit Iran to maintain almost 500 centrifuges there, which could be transformed to enrich uranium. This new development means that Iran can retain nuclear infrastructure at a highly fortified underground facility that is largely immune to attack. Furthermore, rather than insist that Iran reveal the potential military dimensions (PMDs) of its nuclear program as mandated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the P5+1 will reportedly allow Iran to continue to put off full disclosure of its PMDs until later, after considerable sanctions pressure has been lifted, a concession the Washington Post editorial board has labeled “a reward for Iran’s noncompliance.” Failing to address the potential military dimensions would undermine the IAEA’s ability to verify Iran’s nuclear program and calculate its breakout time.
Iran, on the other hand, is now refusing to ship out its enriched uranium, although it had previously successfully convinced the P5+1 to allow it to maintain a higher number of centrifuges on the assumption that it would be shipping out its enriched uranium. Last week, an Iranian official insisted that Iran would not allow snap inspections, although Iran had indicated in the past that they would consider such an arrangement. Additionally, today an Iranian general called Israel’s destruction “non-negotiable.”
Former Director General of the IAEA Olli Heinonen has challenged the Obama administration’s goal of extending Iran’s breakout time to one year. Heinonen has argued that not only would one year not be enough time to detect and respond to an Iranian attempt to break out, but given the amount of centrifuges the P5+1 have reportedly allowed Iran to keep, Iran’s breakout time would actually be closer to 7-8 months.
Bipartisan leaders in the Senate have indicated that if no framework understanding is agreed upon by the time they return from recess, they will introduce the Kirk-Menendez bill, which would increase economic pressure on Iran if there is no deal by July 6. If a framework understanding is produced, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will introduce the Corker-Menendez bill, which calls for congressional review of any nuclear agreement with Iran. Congress has been increasingly critical of the concessions the P5+1 has made to Iran. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote that he fears that “we are no longer guided by the principle that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal,’ but instead we are negotiating ‘any deal for a deal’s sake.’”
President Reuven "Ruby" Rivlin exhorted the legislators "to attend to the needs of the nation, saying 'the time has come to return to the main players — the citizens,'” according to the Times of Israel.
After a tumultuous election campaign, the president told the Knesset and assembled dignitaries, “this building is a glass house, not so that the eyes of the nation will look upon you, but for your eyes to look upon the nation.”
The March 17 election, he said, “proved once again that Israeli democracy is strong, kicking and unpredictable.” Contrary to pre-election surveys, the Likud party won 30 seats in Israel’s parliament, beating out the rival Zionist Union to earn the right to form the next government.
“In Carmiel and Nazareth, Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv, Ariel and Kochav Yair, Nahal Oz, Rahat and Netivot, in Jerusalem and across the country missions of citizens went out to form the Israeli mosaic of the 20th Knesset,” Rivlin said. “Their verdict designs the face of this Knesset and determines the face and future of the state of Israel for the years to come.”
SAHI youth engage in weekly food distribution, and help people with disabilities, the elderly, the downtrodden and Holocaust survivors with shopping, chores and home repairs. They visit hospitals and nursing homes.
Each city where SAHI operates pays the salaries of SAHI counselors; local adult volunteers also participate. The remainder of the operating budget comes from donations from individuals and foundations such as the Good People Fund and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
In response to requests from mayors, next year Hayon expects to adapt the SAHI model for Arab communities. “Because our program is based very much on Jewish values and lifecycle, we’ll research verses from Koran about giving and helping, and will adjust it to their needs,” he says. Two offshoot projects recently kicked off: SAHI Golani, which takes 18-year-olds the army initially rejected and works to qualify them for the Golani brigade; and GPS (Girl Power SAHI),focused on issues specifically affecting female teens in the neighborhoods where SAHI is active. An initiative called Palmach is aimed at stepping up altruistic activities in times of emergency such as last summer’s war, when Hayon and other SAHI leaders were called up to the reserves. (via Israel 21c)