By Arie Egozi
Tel Aviv: In their meeting on Thursday, Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett will tell US president Joe Biden that the nuclear agreement with Iran being discussed now between Washington and Tehran, is based on past assumptions.
“The Iranians have used the negotiations time to rush to their targets and only a new very tough agreement accompanied with sanctions can at least stop this race,” an Israeli defence source told Raksha Anirveda. In the meeting Bennett will present a new “Israeli policy”, and claim that it differs from the one used by the previous government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli defense sources said that they do not expect dramatic results from the meeting. “There will be many polite words and compliments but Israel is aware of the fact that Washington sees the Iranian threat in a different light,” an Israeli senior politician quoted in the Israeli Walla news outlet, said.
“We have received a very difficult legacy from the previous government in the Iranian context,” the politician said. “After all the statements and rhetoric in the Netanyahu era, Iran is at the most advanced point of its nuclear program.”
The senior politician said that Bennett has in the last two months re-examined the policy on the Iranian issue. He said Bennett had formulated a strategy that also addressed the issue of uranium enrichment, both Iranian attempts to produce nuclear warheads for missiles and Iranian activity in the region. “The pace of enrichment is dizzying and worrying. The regional aggression of the Iranians is everywhere. Bennett will present an orderly strategy for tackling the Iranian challenge in the situation we are in. This is the core of the discussion with the president.”
Professor Uzi Rabi, an Israeli senior expert on Iran, said that at this point, the only thing that can affect the pace of the Iranian gallop to the bomb are economic “candies” that will help the Iranian economy. “The Iranians will be ready to consider going back to the 2015 nuclear agreement if they are offered meaningful economic advantages. This is directly related to the wish of some European countries to go into the Iranian market. If Washington gives the green light to the Europeans, that might slow down their nuclear race.”
Rabi added that the US is now undergoing a very complicated process following the withdrawal from Afghanistan and therefore he thinks that president Biden will try to find a way not to create another major crisis with Tehran.
Some background – Signed in 2015 by Iran and several world powers, including the United States, the JCPOA agreement put significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
President Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018, claiming it failed to really affect Iran’s missile program and regional influence. Iran began ignoring limitations on its nuclear program a year later. Washington and Tehran have both said they would return to the original deal but they disagree on the steps to get there.
Maj. General (Ret.) Amos Gilead said that the Israeli prime minister will have to offer the president some strategy that according to Israel may affect the situation. “This is very critical as the Iranians are very close to a point where they can start assembling a nuclear weapon”.
Gilead added the Iranian regime with Raisi as the new president is very tough and is pushing the nuclear effort forward. “Bennett will have to offer a strategic plan because the Israeli efforts so far have not even slowed down the Iranians”. He said that the coordination with the US is now even more critical – “there must be a strategic plan that will stop the Iranian nuclear race before it gets to the point of no return”.
Gilead served in many high ranking positions in the Israeli defense forces (IDF), among them as Head of the Military Intelligence Research Division and responsible for the overall National Intelligence Assessment.
Thus, it seems that the first meeting between the Israeli prime minister and the American president will be a show of friendship between both countries, but the results if any, will be minor. Israel has in the last 12 years invested billions of US $, in what is called “preparations for a military action against Iran”.
While Israel allegedly tried to stop or slow down the Iranian nuclear program by cyber and other covert actions, the total result was very minor. In recent years, the Iranians have transferred their main nuclear facilities to deep underground shelters and this limits the Israeli options to try and target them with weapon systems.
-The writer is an International Roving Correspondent of the publication.