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US officials said seeking to calm Israeli fears, insisting Iran deal ‘not imminent’

Report says Washington stressing it has made no new concessions to Tehran as talks seem to accelerate, amid ‘difficult’ conversations with Jerusalem

National Security Council chairman Eyal Hulata (L) and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in front of the White House on October 5, 2021. (Jake Sullivan/Twitter)
National Security Council chairman Eyal Hulata (L) and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in front of the White House on October 5, 2021. (Jake Sullivan/Twitter)

US officials have in recent days told Israel’s leadership that a new nuclear deal is not imminent and that Washington has not agreed to any new concessions to Iran in order to reach an accord, the Walla news site reported Saturday, citing senior US officials.

But the report said Jerusalem has not been soothed by such messaging.

“We may be closer to a deal than we were two weeks ago, but there are still uncertainties about a resolution and differences remain with the Iranians,” an unnamed US official told the site. “At any rate, the signing of a nuclear deal is not expected in the immediate timeframe.”

The outlet sites senior Israeli officials as saying conversations between Israel and the US have become “difficult” in recent days as an accord becomes likelier.

“We are not calm,” one official says. “On the contrary, we are very worried.”

The remarks came after a senior US official confirmed to The Times of Israel that Iran dropped its “red line” demand that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from a terror blacklist, amid reports that the sides are nearing an agreement on a joint US-Iranian return to compliance with the 2015 pact.

Officials stressed, however, that Prime Minister Yair Lapid does not intend to wage a public campaign against the US administration as his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu did ahead of the 2015 deal.

TV cameras in front of the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna,’ where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on June 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)

“Our policy is not to spark a public spat with the US,” one said. “We won’t wreck relations with the Biden administration as Netanyahu did with [Barack] Obama.”

Earlier Saturday, an unnamed Israeli official told the Ynet news site Jerusalem hoped ongoing efforts to restore the 2015 nuclear deal will not ultimately yield an agreement, as talks between world powers and Tehran appeared to advance.

“The Iranians do not work too fast. We hope the situation is reversible,” the official was quoted as saying.

“If they go to a deal, we’ll try to maximize the achievements [for Israel] within the agreement,” the official added.

The official also argued that if the deal was renewed, it would be “proof” that former US president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the accord in 2018 — a move backed by Israel — was a mistake “without a plan B.”

“Ultimately we’ll end up with an even worse deal,” the official said.

US President Joe Biden takes his leave of Prime Minister Yair Lapid before departing Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on July 15, 2022, for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Amos Ben Gershom GPO)

While the sides had been pessimistic about the prospects of a deal for months, progress has been reported over the past week.

Though the deal is now “closer than it was two weeks ago, the outcome remains uncertain as some gaps remain. President Biden will only approve a deal that meets our national security interests,” a US official told CNN.

Another administration official speaking to CNN was similarly cautious, explaining that progress may be slow moving forward but that there was indeed more momentum now than there was over the past year.

Top Israeli officials have warned their counterparts in the US and Europe against the deal and called for the negotiators to give up on the talks.

National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata will head to Washington, DC next week to conduct a series of meetings with US officials on the Iran nuclear program.

Israel believes Iran wishes to build a nuclear bomb, has published intelligence it says reveals the Iranian weapons program and has reportedly carried out sabotage operations within the Islamic Republic to delay the development of such a weapon.

Iran has denied any nefarious intentions and claims its program is designed for peaceful purposes, though it has recently been enriching uranium to levels that international leaders say have no civil use.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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