Israeli officials on Sunday night expressed concern that the Biden administration will rush to rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran, arguing that Washington’s negotiating power is compromised by its eagerness to clinch a pact.
“Both sides, the Americans and the Iranians, want a deal. The Iranians smell that the Americans want an agreement at any price,” an official told Channel 12 on condition of anonymity, following a top-level security cabinet meeting on the issue.
“The outcome is known from the start — a return to the Iran deal with amendments,” the official added.
The official said such a deal, in the long term, “will restrict Israel’s freedom of movement. It’s very troubling.”
Another senior Israeli official told the Axios site that they feared a deal could come very soon. “We will not be surprised if within weeks the US and other world powers sign a deal with Iran.”
According to Axios the cabinet was briefed by officials from the Mossad and Israel’s military intelligence, with both agencies offering a similar prediction.
The Biden administration is working to coax Tehran back into the 2015 so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which aimed to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. Former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the pact in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, a move cheered by Israel.
Iran is engaged in indirect talks with the US, mediated by Europe in Vienna, aimed at reviving the nuclear pact, even as it enriches uranium to its highest-ever levels.
The security cabinet met for 2.5 hours Sunday, for the first time in over two months, as tensions escalate with Iran.
At the top of the agenda was the confrontation with Iran amid claims that Israel was behind an explosion last week that knocked out power to a major Iranian nuclear site, reportedly damaging a large portion of the uranium enrichment centrifuges inside.
Iran has blamed Israel for the incident at its Natanz nuclear facility and on Saturday published a picture of a man it said was a key suspect who had fled the country.
Since the explosion, Iran announced that it was raising enrichment levels to 60 percent, a short technical step from the purity needed to make nuclear weapons, and a significant violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.
At the security cabinet meeting, ministers were also updated on the planned probe by the International Criminal Court in The Hague of alleged Israeli and Palestinian war crimes in the conflict between them, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
Before the security cabinet meeting started, ministers were required to make some adjustments as to who would be permitted to participate, as an ongoing political deadlock has left the country with a transitional government and without a justice or science minister, both of whom resigned in the run-up to March elections.
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz had taken over as acting justice minister, but his term came to an end earlier this month, as did that of Chili Tropper, also of Blue and White, who was acting science minister. With those two seats left vacant, Blue and White lost two ministers at the table, requiring the Likud party to drop two of its own ministers as well, in order to keep the two parties’ unity government power-sharing agreement of having equal numbers of ministers in the cabinet intact.
As a result, Transportation Minister Miri Regev and Education Minister Yoav Gallant, both Likud members of the security cabinet, were to begin taking turns having observer status, according to Hebrew media reports. In addition, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, also of Likud, was dropped to observer status. Blue and White’s Omer Yankelevich, the minister for Diaspora affairs, reportedly joined as an observer.