Israeli Army Radio said Tuesday 02/23 that Israel would discuss its differences with the United States over Iran “out of sight” for the time being. The radio attributed this to sources who participated in a strategy-setting session held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The radio added that the Netanyahu government decided to avoid declared differences with US President Joe Biden regarding his desire to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, but this approach may change depending on what the Biden administration does. Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term in elections scheduled for March 23, but unlike what he did in his previous election campaigns, he did not focus on foreign policy, possibly reflecting the change in his fortune since Biden, a Democrat, took office after Republican Donald Trump, who was a close ally of Netanyahu.
On Monday, Netanyahu held his first meeting on Iran with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, both of his centrist rivals, in what officials said was an attempt to show a united Israeli front. Under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Iran agreed to reduce its ability to enrich uranium in exchange for the removal of most of the sanctions imposed on it. Netanyahu angered Barack Obama, the US president at the time and Biden who served as his deputy, by addressing Congress as part of a lawsuit strongly opposing the agreement. Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, saying it was aligned with Iran. In 2019, Iran began violating the terms of the agreement and has escalated its breaches of it recently.
Last Thursday, the Biden administration announced that it was ready to hold talks with Iran about the parties returning to abide by the terms of the agreement. A source familiar with the matter said that Israel was informed in advance. Israel said in a statement on Friday that it was “in close contact” with Washington on this matter and stressed that returning to the 2015 deal “would pave the way for Iran to obtain a nuclear arsenal.” It is rumored that Israel possesses the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, but it did not confirm or deny this within the framework of its policy of ambiguity to deter its Arab and Iranian opponents. Iran, which denies seeking a nuclear weapon, has so far been lukewarmly with the Biden administration’s overtures.
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