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Opposition Leader Herzog: Iran Deal “Will Unleash a Lion from the Cage”

The nuclear deal with Iran will “unleash a lion from the cage,” creating “clear risks to Israel’s security,” Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic in an interview published today.

The deal just finalized in Vienna, [Herzog] said, “will unleash a lion from the cage, it will have a direct influence over the balance of power in our region, it’s going to affect our borders, and it will affect the safety of my children.”

Iran, he said, is an “empire of evil and hate that spreads terror across the region,” adding that, under the terms of the deal, Iran “will become a nuclear-threshold state in a decade or so.” Iran will take its post-sanctions windfall, he said, and use the funds to supply more rockets to Hezbollah in Lebanon, more ammunition to Hamas in Gaza, and “generally increase the worst type of activities that they’ve been doing.”

“The Iran deal represents one of those rare issues that has unified Israelis of most political parties,” Goldberg observed.

When asked how he would present Israel’s case against the deal during his upcoming visit to the United States, Herzog told Goldberg:

I don’t intend to hide my feelings. Most of the Israeli body politic is worried about the agreement, and people need to understand our worries. The world doesn’t fully understand the fact that we are left here alone in this neighborhood, that there is a Shia empire that is trying to inflame the region with a heavy hand. But I don’t intend to clash with the administration. We’re very glad for all that the Obama administration has done for us. We have respect for the United States, for this great ally and friend, and we don’t want to be in a confrontation or clash. But we have to let people know that we think this is a dangerous situation.

Herzog is traveling to the United States shortly to lobby against the nuclear agreement with Iran before the upcoming Congressional vote.

During his election campaign earlier this year, Herzog wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “on the Iranian nuclear threat, Israelis are one.” Herzog was one of many Israeli politicians to question the deal after the Lausanne round of talks in April, and called on the United States “to roll back Iran’s nuclear program and prevent it from getting nuclear weapons,” joining politicians across the Israeli political spectrum in criticizing the emerging deal. In a position paper he co-wrote shortly afterwards with Tzipi Livni, the former Justice Minister and co-leader of the Zionist Union, Herzog asserted that under the terms of a good deal, “removal of sanctions will come only gradually and on the condition that Iran proves over time that it is rolling back its nuclear program, allowing intrusive inspection of its facilities, eliminating all of its stockpile of enriched uranium and not using its old centrifuges to enrich uranium or activating new centrifuges.”

[Photo: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90 ]