Israel Balks at US Proposal to Ease Iran Sanctions

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- President Barack Obama is asking Congress not to add more sanctions against Iran, saying he wants to give the international community time to work out a diplomatic solution.

The P5+1 -- U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China -- came close to striking a deal to ease sanctions against Iran earlier this month, but French intervention prevented it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unimpressed with reports that Iran has not expanded its nuclear program. He says Iran already has the ability to create the material to build a nuclear bomb.

"They've got enough facilities, enough centrifuges to develop and to complete the fissile material that is at the core of an atomic bomb," Netanyahu said. "They have that and the test today is not whether they add to the capacity they already have, the question is if the international community would roll back what they have."

With international negotiations set to resume next week, Israeli Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett arrived in Washington Wednesday to discuss Israel's point of view on Iranian sanctions with senators and congressmen.

Bennett said Israel and the United States are lined up on the goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. The differences lie in how to achieve that goal. He took exception to Obama's statement on reassessing Iran's response in six months.

"If it turns out six months from now that they're not serious, we can crank those sanctions right back up," the president said earlier this week at a White House press conference.

Bennett said few believe easing sanctions will bring the desired results.

"I don't think that by relaxing sanctions you'll be strengthening sanctions," Bennett told the Jerusalem Post.

"That contradicts itself," he said. "Does anyone think that half a year from now, the West will have more leverage by easing sanctions?"

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is also asking legislators to postpone passing legislation on additional sanctions. From Israel's point of view, that's a flawed concept.

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