As international negotiations progress on restoring the 2015 accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program, suspicion is growing between Israel and the US as the Biden administration looks to rejoin the accord, according to a report Wednesday.
Officials told Axios that National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat had raised Israeli worry with American officials that Jerusalem’s concerns were not being given proper consideration as Washington attempts to reenter the deal. Israeli officials said the Americans countered that Israel was not sufficiently heeding the administration’s request for “no surprises” from either side concerning Iran policy.
The report described growing frustration on both sides over feelings of lack of trust and insufficient transparency.
Despite the disagreements between the sides, an Israeli official told the Walla news site that Israel was still holding out hope it could influence the US position.
“We don’t think everything is lost and as long as we have the opportunity to voice our stance, we are going to try in the hope that we’ll succeed,” the unnamed official said.
The comments came before Israeli security chiefs fly to Washington next week for high-level talks on Iran.
According to Walla, they will meet Thursday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to coordinate their discussions with their American counterparts.
Among the officials set to travel to the US are Ben-Shabbat, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and Military Intelligence commander Tamir Hayman.
Noting that most talks with the new administration have been held by phone or video conference, the unnamed official told Walla that next week’s face-to-face meetings would illustrate to Israel how large the gap is with the US concerning policy toward Iran.
The nations set up a strategic group, which last convened on April 13, to coordinate their efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms. The group is led by Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart Ben-Shabbat.
Two Israeli officials familiar with those meetings told Walla that they exposed the gaps between the countries on how best to address Iran’s nuclear program.
The officials also said that it was the US that was not being transparent about the offers so far made to Iran, a claim rejected by a senior administration official.
The report came a day after Kan news said Israel was lobbying the US to push for improved international oversight of Iran’s nuclear program, having concluded there will not be significant changes to the treaty but nonetheless seeking to slightly improve the terms of the pact.
Israel was said to have conceded that the deal will be renewed without addressing its concerns about Tehran’s ballistic missile program and support for terror groups.
A separate report this week said Israeli officials have expressed concern that Biden will rush to rejoin the nuclear deal, arguing that Washington’s negotiating power is compromised by its eagerness to clinch a pact.
As the efforts to restore the nuclear pact continued, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that 60-70 percent of issues had been resolved. A spokesman for the US State Department, however, said that while the talks were positive, “we have more road ahead of us than in the rearview mirror.”
The Biden administration has repeatedly said it will return to the nuclear deal if Iran first returns to compliance. Iran has taken a hardline approach, demanding the US lift all sanctions against it first, putting the two sides at a stalemate.
Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, have adamantly opposed the US returning to the nuclear deal, putting Jerusalem at odds with the new White House administration.
Critics have long said that the deal fails to address Iran’s development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that can reach Israel and parts of Europe and its constant funding and support of terror groups like Hezbollah.