Leaders from across the political spectrum in Israel have denounced the Iran nuclear deal. On Tuesday, Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, who heads the left-wing Zionist Union, stated “the agreement that was signed with the Iranian kingdom of terror is a dangerous agreement” that “endangers our security interests.” His comments echo those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who declared the deal to be “a historic mistake” that “gives Iran a path to a nuclear arsenal.”Like Netanyahu, Herzog has warned that the deal will “immediately give Iran a lot of money and resources, which will reach our enemies at our borders.” The Opposition Leader will be traveling to the United States “to explain the inherent risks entailed in the agreement to Israel and the region at large.” His trip reflects widespread Israeli opposition to the deal. Herzog has explained that on the issue of Iran, “it's important to present the world with a unified stance."
Yair Lapid, leader of the center-left party Yesh Atid, has similarly condemned the deal, especially the inspections regime. He stated, “‘surprise inspections’ without pre-warning… should have been the minimum demand of the P5+1” and complained that instead, “the inspectors will only be able to enter a site after the Iranians receive 24 days to hide their activities.” Netanyahu similarly warned that granting Iran 24 days before inspection of a suspect site is “like giving a crime organization that deals in drugs a 24-day notice before checking its drug lab.”
Former Labor Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak commented that the agreement gives Iran the legitimacy to become a nuclear threshold state. He urged Israel to preserve its military option and engage with Arab states similarly concerned about the deal’s repercussions in the region. Last month, it was revealed that since the beginning of last year, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been engaging in secret talks to discuss the common threat from Iran. On Thursday, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former head of Saudi intelligence and former Saudi ambassador to the United States, warned that the new deal will "wreak havoc" in the Middle East.
As a result of the deal, Qasem Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Qods Force and the general responsible for overseeing Iran’s network of proxy organizations, will be removed from European Union sanctions lists once the agreement is implemented, and taken off a UN sanctions list after eight or fewer years.
Iran obtained some key concessions as a result of the nuclear agreement, including access to an estimated $150 billion in frozen assets; the lifting of a UN arms embargo, the eventual end to sanctions related to the country’s ballistic missile program; the ability to operate over 5,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges and to run stable elements through centrifuges at the once-clandestine and heavily guarded Fordow facility; nuclear assistance from the US and its partners; and the ability to stall inspections of sensitive sites for as long as 24 days. In light of these accomplishments, the de-listing of a general responsible for coordinating anti-US militia groups in Iraq — someone who may be responsible for the deaths of US soldiers — almost seems gratuitous.
Initially, there was some confusion whether the person named was indeed the IRGC commander, as Lee Smith reported for Tablet. Suleimani, according to a report two years ago in The Wall Street Journal, was largely responsible for coordinating the IRGC and Hezbollah to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In Iraq, Suleimani has taken control of the Shiite militias fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The militias have been reported to be just as brutal as ISIS.
The port of Ashdod has been a gateway into the land of Israel for millennia. These days, as tens of thousands of tourists arrive on cruise ships – and thousands more via car and train – the old-new shore city 40 minutes south of Tel Aviv and an hour west of Jerusalem is investing hundreds of millions of shekels in tourism and leisure opportunities. “Over the past five years, the Ashdod Tourism Development Company has put a big priority on developing tourist attractions and hotels,” says Eddie Ben-Lish of the municipality’s tourism office. “We’ve opened two five-star hotels – the Leonardo Plaza and the West Hotel – as well as Ashdod-Yam [Sea] Park, which has a manmade lake and a spectacular musical fountain.” You can enjoy the dancing water jets, colored light strobes and synchronized music Sunday through Thursday nights at 6:30, 8:30 and 10:15; Saturday nights at 8:30 and 10:15. A 650-square-meter visitors center at the Ashdod Port features a panoramic movie telling the story of the port through an interactive projection on a huge table. Visitors can play a trivia game about the variety of goods going through the port, and an interactive, multi-player game illustrates the complexity of docking huge ships. A tri-screen projection inside a shipping container reveals the container’s history and its role in the port. Walking along the Lachish Stream promenade northwestern Ashdod, you’ll come across a free zoo housing zebras, rare Berber sheep, deer, ostriches and other animals. Ben-Lish tells ISRAEL21c there’s a new beach promenade being built along Ashdod’s 7.5-kilometer (4.6-mile) Mediterranean shoreline, along with another luxury hotel. (Israel21c)