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Surprise! ‘No surprise’ policy seemingly sought by Netanyahu in past

Some are noting that Yair Lapid and Antony Blinken agreeing to a policy of “no surprises” with regards to Iran is, well, no surprise, as its been a mainstay of Israel-US policy for years, including during Benjamin Netanyahu’s own time in office.

During the previous government, senior Israeli officials agreed in talks with the US on the Iran nuclear file that there would be “no surprises” on the matter and that disagreements would be addressed behind closed doors, a source familiar with the matter confirms to The Times of Israel.

In fact, despite Netanyahu claiming that the policy means Israel cannot act against Iran without informing the US first, it has in the past been largely seen as a shield for Israel, making sure Jerusalem is apprised of any overtures the US might make toward the Islamic Republic.

In March, when Netanyahu was still premier, then-foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi said that the Israel and the Joe Biden administration had agreed to a “no surprises” policy.

“We believe, profoundly and passionately, in making sure that we and Israel have a policy of no surprises, that we are communicating with one another on a going forward basis, so that we have a better understanding … on what the other side intends to do with respect to a whole range of security issues in the region,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC News in April, when Netanyahu was still prime minister.

Former ambassador Michael Oren’s “principle of no daylight, no surprises amounts to a virtual Netanyahu veto over anything the U.S. government might contemplate doing to, or about, Israel,” Bernard Avishai wrote in the New Yorker in 2015.

In 2014, Haaretz reported, “A senior Israeli official has said that Israel and the United States have an understanding which calls for a policy of ‘no surprises’ in the framework of current negotiations between Iran and the six powers, being held in an attempt to reach a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. As part of this understanding, the U.S. briefed Israel in advance of its plan to hold direct bilateral talks with Iran in Geneva this week.”

However, in 2011, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote for Bloomberg that Netanyahu had apparently refused to commit to informing the US ahead of time if it plans on attacking Iran, noting, “‘No surprises’ has been the rule governing U.S.-Israel relations for some time, and this is where the personality clash between the two leaders has real salience.”

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