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Bennett: Israel is not opposed to a ‘good’ nuclear deal with Iran

PM says Israeli officials are not ‘automatic naysayers’ to the Vienna talks, but a positive outcome appears highly unlikely

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on December 19, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on December 19, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday morning that Israel would not automatically oppose any deal forged by world powers with Iran during the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna.

“We are not automatic naysayers. We’re taking a practical approach,” Bennett said during an interview with Army Radio. “Unlike others, we’re not looking to fight for the sake of fighting; rather, we’re trying to bring a result.”

But he suggested that the possibility of a deal suited to Israel’s interests emerging from the Vienna talks was slim.

“At the end of the day, of course there could be a good deal — we know the parameters,” he added. “But is that currently expected to happen in this dynamic? No, because you need a much stronger position [from world leaders]. Iran is holding very weak cards, but the world is acting as if it’s negotiating from a position of strength.”

On Monday, world leaders and Iran resumed talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. The latest round of talks in Vienna, the eighth, opened 10 days after negotiations were adjourned for the Iranian negotiator to return home for consultations. The previous round, the first after a more than five-month gap prompted by the arrival of a new hardline government in Iran, was marked by tensions over new Iranian demands.

“If we work hard in the days and weeks ahead, we should have a positive result,” Enrique Mora, the European Union diplomat who chaired the talks, said after the opening session on Monday. But “it’s going to be very hard — difficult political decisions have to be taken.”

Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora speaks to journalists after nuclear talks in Vienna on December 27, 2021. (Alex Halada/AFP)

Bennett told the Kan public broadcaster on Tuesday that Israel is “without a doubt not a party to the deal in Vienna if it will happen.” In response to recent public comments by IDF officials that Israel was ready to strike Iran at any moment, Bennett repeated: “I’m in favor of speaking little and doing a lot.”

He said a recent report that the Biden administration was not taking his calls was “fake news,” but that there were still disagreements between the two countries.

“We don’t always agree with the policies of the United States and sometimes there is disagreement,” he said. “We have a very close working relationship… but we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.”

Speaking to Army Radio, Bennett rejected the idea that he had agreed to a policy of “no surprises” between Israel and the US, something opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has pointed to as a signal of the government’s weakness.

“It’s a complete lie,” Bennett said. “I think Netanyahu is the last one who can preach on the issue of Iran,” he added, suggesting that though the former prime minister had spoken out sharply on Iran’s nuclear program he had nevertheless “left a very difficult situation” for the current government.

“The last government buried its head in the sand,” he said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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