Bennett quietly expresses dissatisfaction with US proposals to Iran

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is not trying to snub the US envoy to Iran, Rob Malley, who was in Israel on Monday. You just don’t want to send a positive message about what Malley is doing by meeting him.

If that sounds counterintuitive to you, well, you are not the only one.

But sources close to Bennett insisted on pointing to the protocol in response to reports of a snub. After all, the US special representative for Iran is not on the same diplomatic level as the leader of Israel; Bennett also did not meet with Under Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo, although he was in Israel this week.

However, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz disobeyed protocol and met with Malley. Furthermore, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not rise through the ranks when he made sure to meet with Malley’s predecessors, Elliott Abrams and Brian Hook.

But the fact that Iran’s previous envoys were Hook and Abrams, staunch opponents of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and the current one is Malley, the biggest proponent of the nuclear deal in the Biden administration, makes the difference. Malley’s defense of the compromise is especially relevant at this point because the indirect talks between the United States and Iran are supposed to restart in two weeks.

The Iranian flag flies in front of the UN office building, which houses the IAEA headquarters, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria, on May 24, 2021 (credit: LISI NIESNER / REUTERS).

Bennett declined to send a message that he supports Malley’s efforts by meeting with him, and that message came out loud and clear, even if his office is unhappy with reporters using words like “snub” and “boycott.”

“We have no desire to legitimize a process that is very, very bad,” said a high-level diplomatic source. “We really don’t want Americans to think that Israel is comfortable with what is happening. They were not.”

At the same time, Israel remains in constant contact with the United States at the highest level to express its discontent.

Lapid, unlike Bennett, saw a meeting with Malley as an appropriate place to voice those concerns, since he is Foreign Minister and Malley is a representative of the State Department, the equivalent American agency, on a matter as important as Iran.

The foreign minister reiterated Israel’s opposition to the JCPOA and the view that Iran is using the negotiations to extend more time as it continues to advance its nuclear program towards rupture.

A source at the meeting said everything went well and Malley mostly listened to Lapid’s point of view.

Although there was nothing new in the meeting – the opinions of both parties were known and they did not change – “It is important that they are listening to us, because before they did not do that,” postulated the source.

More than one senior Israeli diplomatic source said that, at this point, the Biden administration is seeking a return to the JCPOA, but Washington realizes that at this point it is a long shot.

The Iranians continue to present their agreement to return to the talks only as a sanctions relief measure.

Chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani said: “The talks will not be on the nuclear issue,” Iranian state media Press TV reported on Friday.

“The main objective of these talks from the point of view of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to remove the illegal sanctions imposed on the Iranian nation by the United States government,” after the United States abandoned the Iran Agreement in 2018, he stated. Bagheri Kani.

If Iran sticks to that model for negotiations, the only option for the United States to reach an agreement is what is called “less for less.” The United States would lift sanctions in exchange for Iran not continuing to advance its nuclear deal, but not reversing the immense progress it has made beyond the boundaries of the JCPOA in recent years.

For Israel, that option is even worse than the JCPOA, which gives Iran massive funds to do what it did the last time it got economic relief: start an indirect war across the region, and stay closer to the threshold of a weapon. nuclear than ever. He is relieving pressure on Iran for almost nothing in return.

“Less for less” did not come up at the Malley-Lapid meeting, but was raised between Israeli and US officials, and the Israeli side made its unequivocal opposition clear, a diplomatic source said.

Israel remains disappointed and concerned about the direction the United States is taking and its harsh push toward a return to the JCPOA, even as, as time passes, any benefit from such an agreement with Iran becomes increasingly elusive.

Yet Bennett and Lapid still contend that while the gaps in the Iran deal are significant, they chose the right strategy by not waging a major public campaign against the Biden administration on this front. They continue to cooperate whenever possible, maintaining the strategic asset of the close relations between the United States and Israel, and Jerusalem speaks when it matters most, which they see as opposing the JCPOA and a consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem.

In that way, Bennett’s calculation of not meeting Malley is his way of sending a message within the narrow confines of opposing the Biden administration’s proposals to Iran without starting a fight in public. You don’t have to meet Malley out of protocol, and you won’t because of potential content.

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