Israel dismisses Iran nuclear framework as detached from reality

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel dismissed celebration of a nuclear framework deal between major powers and Iran on Thursday as being detached from reality and vowed to continue lobbying to prevent what it called a bad final agreement. Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said after the announcement in Switzerland that "the smiles in Lausanne are detached from grim reality in which Iran refuses to make any concessions on the nuclear issue and continues to threaten Israel and all other countries in the Middle East. "We will continue with our efforts to explain and persuade the world in hopes of preventing a bad (final) agreement," Steinitz said in a written statement. Steinitz later told Israel's Channel 2 television Israel was "worried" Iran had won removal of economic sanctions "without making significant concessions," but Israel hoped to improve the terms before a final deal was reached in June. U.S. President Barack Obama has said he would speak to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on Thursday. Netanyahu was expected to postpone any comment until after that conversation takes place. Earlier, as details of the framework were being finalised, Netanyahu demanded in a post on Twitter that any deal achieved with Iran "must significantly roll back Iran's nuclear capabilities." Netanyahu attached a diagram to his tweet showing Tehran's involvement in Middle East conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt and reiterated Israel's demands that Iran "stop its terrorism and aggression." Netanyahu has long been critical of the agreement being negotiated with Tehran. In a controversial speech to the U.S. Congress last month that strained ties with Obama, he called it a "bad deal", doubting the terms would prevent Israel's arch enemy from attaining a capability to acquire nuclear weapons. A second Israeli official called the agreement with Iran an "historic mistake" that gave "international legitimacy to Iran's nuclear programme, whose sole aim is to create atomic bombs". The framework amounts to "capitulating to Iranian demands," added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Economic sanctions were being lifted while Iran was "assured it could maintain its nuclear capabilities," the official said. "The alternative to this deal isn't war, but rather a different deal that would significantly disable Iran's nuclear infrastructure," the official said. Criticism came from across Israel's political spectrum. Centrist lawmaker Yair Lapid, a former finance minister, worried whether Iran would uphold its end of the bargain. "The ayatolla's regime has been peddling fraud and deception for years," Lapid said in a statement. "They will try, from day one, to cheat the international community as they have done in the past. There is no basis to the determination that today Iran was prevented from attaining a nuclear weapon," he said. Udi Segal, diplomatic correspondent for Channel 2 news, summed up the scepticism of many by saying the deal amounted to the world giving Iran's years of nuclear violations a "kosher" certificate. Some Israelis, however, saw some positives in the deal. Chico Menashe, an Israel Radio reporter covering the talks in Lausanne, said Israel may have gained some breathing space in that Iran's breakout time to manufacture a nuclear weapon would be about a year under the terms of the deal. "It's not a terrible agreement, though not a satisfactory one," Menashe said. Israel, which sees Iran's nuclear programme as an existential threat, has previously threatened to attack Iran if it is unhappy with an eventual deal. (Reporting by Dan Williams; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Dan Grebler)