Israeli television on Wednesday reported that Jerusalem is warning an American return to the former terms of the nuclear deal with Iran under President Joe Biden could lead the countries to a crisis in relations.
Channel 12 news cited “a very senior Israeli official” as saying: “If Biden adopts Obama’s plan, we will have nothing to talk about with him.” The official was referencing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed by former president Barack Obama in 2015.
The official did not elaborate further.
The comments came just a day after Biden’s nominee for secretary of state Antony Blinken pledged to senators at his confirmation hearing that he would engage with Israel and its Arab allies before reentering the JCPOA. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer had called on Biden to do just that several weeks earlier.
Biden has made clear that a JCPOA return is his goal, but that he will only agree to do so if Iran returns to compliance with the deal first.
The president has also said he intends to enter subsequent negotiations to reach a “longer and stronger” deal with Tehran that would also address its ballistic missile program and regional hegemony. Iran, though, has said it is not interested in reaching any subsequent agreements and has also warned that it won’t return to compliance with the JCPOA until the US lifts sanctions against Tehran.
The premier is believed to support a more confrontational approach to dealing with Biden’s plans to reenter the JCPOA, while others in the security establishment have argued that it would be better to try and keep disputes with the new American administration behind closed doors and try to influence Biden to be as tough as possible on Iran, even if he returns to the deal.
Now that Biden is president, Netanyahu is slated to convene a series of discussions on Iran with various bodies including the National Security Council, Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Israel Defence Forces and Mossad, Hebrew media reported.
According to Channel 12, the key theme of those discussions will be Israel not allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons. Biden has said he has the same goal.
Israeli-American relations reached a nadir toward the end of the Obama presidency, in large part due to Netanyahu’s clashes with his administration over the Iran deal.
Biden has argued that while he would like to address Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional hegemony, the most pressing issue is its nuclear program, and must be dealt with first. Blinken said Tuesday that an Iran with a nuclear weapon in addition to its other destabilizing tactics is more dangerous than an Iran without a nuclear weapon that is wreaking havoc on the region.
Blinken said the deal had been working and that Iran only started violating it — most recently by enriching its uranium to 20 percent purity — after former president Donald Trump left the agreement and imposed sanctions against Tehran.
Opponents of the deal argue that it only delayed an Iranian nuclear program but would not have prevented Tehran from gaining nuclear capabilities, and that the regime’s cavalier conduct in the region since the deal was signed proved that it is not a country that can be trusted.