Prime Minister Lapid says in talks he will meet Biden as new Iran nuclear deal looms

Israel and the United States are planning a meeting between Prime Minister Yair Lapid and US President Joe Biden next month, as Washington appears closer to signing a renewed nuclear deal with Iran, according to a Saturday report. .

Kan News quoted a senior Israeli official as saying the idea is to schedule a meeting on the sidelines of the annual session of the UN General Assembly. A potential date is September 20, after Biden addressed the UNGA, the anonymous official said.

The report said the two leaders are also expected to speak on the phone in the coming days, a report also published by the Ynet news site, which cited a senior US source.

Meanwhile, continuing his visit to the United States on Saturday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz told the heads of major Washington think tanks on Saturday that “improvements are needed” in the emerging new nuclear deal with Iran.

“Iran has acquired knowledge, infrastructure and capabilities” in recent years, Gantz said, “much of which is irreversible.”

He said “this will allow Iran to further expand its nuclear program during the period of an agreement that would have fewer restrictions.” And Iran “could acquire a nuclear weapon when said deal ends in 2031.”

Defense Secretary Benny Gantz meets with heads of Washington DC think tanks, August 27, 2022. (Yossi May)

So, he argued, “improvements are needed in the nuclear deal under discussion – with a focus on the ‘twilight’ clause”, which sees some restrictions end in nine years.

Gantz also noted that Iran provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year to regional terrorist groups, including Hezbollah.

“As such, regardless of future scenarios, action must be taken against Iranian proxies, which threaten the entire Middle East region.”

Defense Secretary Benny Gantz meets with heads of Washington DC think tanks, August 27, 2022. (Yossi May)

Gantz met with US national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Friday, telling him that Israel “needs” the US to have a credible military option against Iran, a senior Israeli official told reporters.

According to the defense official, Israel received “good indications” that the United States had an effective offensive plan against Iran. He did not give details, but said it would potentially allow Tehran to be more flexible in negotiations for the renewed deal.

The official said the meeting between Gantz and Sullivan in Washington was “intimate” and “positive.” He said Gantz underscored Israel’s objection to the potential deal, which Israel called “very bad.”

The official warned that Iran’s nuclear program had grown significantly since 2018, when then-US President Donald Trump pulled out of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The official said he personally views Trump’s decision as a mistake.

Secretary of Defense Benny Gantz meets with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Washington DC, August 26, 2022. (Yossi Mai/Department of Defense)

Official says situation has reached a point where there are only two scenarios: no deal, allowing Iran to gradually expand its nuclear program, or a bad deal that does not serve Israel’s interests .

The official said Israel had two main concerns about the potential deal: the so-called sunset clause, which will lift limitations on Iran’s nuclear program when the deal expires; and sanctions relief that would allow Iran to increase funding for its proxies.

The official added that Israel has tried to influence the deal as much as possible in some aspects, but “for now, it is far from serving Israel’s interests as they see it.” Israel is seeking to make the deal “longer and stronger”, the official said.

Still, the official said Gantz’s objections were met positively by Sullivan. “I think we’re listened to even if the Americans, in the end, don’t accept everything we want,” the official said.

The official said Israel would always have its freedom to act against Iran, adding that whether or not a deal is signed, Jerusalem would continue its efforts against what it sees as hostile Iranian actions.

A reading released by the spokesperson for the United States National Security Council said: “Sullivan underscored President Biden‘s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and the two exchanged views on ways deepen the US-Israeli security partnership, including through regional cooperation and coordination.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Mossad chief David Barnea at the Defense Ministry, Tel Aviv, August 25, 2022. (Prime Minister’s Office)

“They discussed the United States’ commitment to ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon, and the need to counter threats from Iran and Iran-based proxies.”

On Thursday, Gantz met with the head of US Central Command, General Michael Kurilla, at CENTCOM headquarters in Florida. Gantz was briefed on US plans for possible scenarios after whether or not a nuclear deal is reached.

Gantz and Kurilla’s discussion focused on ways to increase cooperation between Israel and the US military, methods to counter the Iranian threat in the Middle East and a “plan B” for the nuclear deal.

CENTCOM officially assumed responsibility for US military-Israeli relations in September last year. Until then, Israel had been kept within the European Command (EUCOM) area of ​​responsibility to prevent possible tensions between CENTCOM and the Arab and Muslim nations under its responsibility, many of which did not maintain formal ties with Israel. and would therefore not want to be seen as mutual allies.

In recent years, however, CENTCOM’s Arab allies have increasingly developed relations with Israel, some informally, so the issue has largely faded.

“Israeli influence in the region is growing,” the senior defense official told reporters on Friday.

“The players in the region are no less disturbed than us by the agreement that is taking shape. We have channels of communication and in many ways they trust us to know how to persuade and influence,” he said.

The official said such a dialogue takes place “under the aegis of CENTCOM”.

Gantz was visiting the United States the same week as a trip by Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata, both of which carry a message of Jerusalem’s displeasure over the acceleration of talks to revive the deal 2015 nuclear attack with Iran.

Iran said on Wednesday it had received the United States’ response to its proposal to return to the 2015 accord.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby declined to characterize the administration’s response to the latest proposal, but noted that “we are closer now than we were a while ago. only a few weeks away because Iran made the decision to make concessions.”

Emanuel Fabian and the agencies contributed to this report.

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