Sep 26, 2022
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Amid mainstream media reports that the Israeli government is scrambling to prevent Iran from developing its nuclear program, there are conflicting reports of secret negotiations in which Israel is willing to allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold power if certain assurances are made by Russia and the US.

Working to prevent Iran’s nuclear program

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke at a Jerusalem Post Conference at the Museum of Tolerance in downtown Jerusalem on Tuesday and directly addressed the issue of the Iranian nuclear program.

“Iran is blatantly violating the IAEA commitments,” Bennett said. “We’re not going to wait. I expect the global powers to hold them accountable.”

“That would be the peaceful route. There are other routes,” Bennett warned.

At the same time, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with Jake Sullivan, the President’s National Security Adviser, and expressed concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. 

“The foreign minister shared with the national security advisor Israel’s concern about Iran’s race towards nuclear capability, and the fact that Iran is becoming a nuclear threshold state,” Lapid’s office said in a statement.

These concerns should have been put to rest in June when, during a meeting with outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, President Biden declared that Iran would “never get a nuclear weapon on my watch.” 

But the concerns persist. Last week, an Israeli delegation led by National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata met with his US counterpart Jack Sullivan for what was officially billed as a discussion of Plan B, should President Joe Biden’s bid to revive the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran fail.

All these reassurances come just a few weeks before the Biden administration is set to meet with Iranian officials in an effort to resurrect the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran that President Trump pulled out of. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the JCPOA, considering an Iranian nuclear program to be an existential threat to Israel.

New Israeli policy

A new Israeli policy may be emerging that is precisely the opposite, one which would allow for an Iranian nuclear program. Debka File reported last week that secret meetings were being held between Israel, Iran, the US, and Russia that are focused on Israel’s acceptance of Iran as a nuclear threshold power in return for a US-Russian guarantee that Tehran will not cross the threshold to make a nuclear bomb. The report cited sources in the Kremlin as saying that those talks are making progress. 

The report comes one week before Bennett will travel to Russia to meet with President Putin to discuss the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme and other regional security issues.

Debka concludes that one possible outcome of this new Israeli acceptance of an Iranian nuclear program could be a new nuclear accord that will be different that the original JCPOA.

“By late October or early November, it may have matured ready for Iran and the original six powers (US, Russia, China, France, Germany and the EU) to affix their signatures, certified for the first time by Israel,” Debka wrote. “It may be premature to assess the regional implications of this deal should it comes to fruition. However, the Bennett-Lapid government appears to be willing to back down on Israel’s most fundamental policy objective, namely, never to allow Iran to reach the point of a nuclear threshold power. It would also mean that Israel may be finally satisfied with a joint US-Russian guarantee against Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.”