Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has announced that he will travel to the United States on Thursday for meetings with senior American defense officials, against the backdrop of the emerging deal to revive the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran.
“We will do everything we can to influence the agreement,” Gantz was quoted by Israeli media saying on Tuesday.
He added that he had been in touch with leaders of Middle East countries to coordinate their positions on the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna, which appear to be reaching an end-point.
Gantz made clear that Israel would not be bound to any deal and that Jerusalem would “maintain its freedom of action as needed,” according to the reports.
Shortly thereafter, former prime minister Naftali Bennett weighed in, calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to scrap the negotiations.
Bennett, who currently holds the position of alternate prime minister, tweeted: “This agreement will send approximately a quarter of a trillion dollars to the Iranian terror administration’s pocket and to its regional proxies and will enable Iran to develop, install and operate centrifuges, with almost no restrictions, in a mere two years. One way or another, the State of Israel is not a party to the agreement. Israel is not committed to any of the restrictions stemming from the agreement and will utilize all available tools to prevent the Iranian nuclear program from advancing.”
On Tuesday, Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata met with his U.S. counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington, with the two discussing “issues of mutual concern,” the White House said in a statement.
“Sullivan underscored President Biden’s steadfast commitment to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter its enemies and to defend itself by itself against any threat or combination of threats, including from Iran and Iranian-backed proxies; and our commitment to ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon,” the statement added.
It came as European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Tuesday that Iran has requested “some adjustments” to what had been billed as a take-it-or-leave-it draft proposal aimed at reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Borrell added that “most” parties to the original accord have signed off on the new one, but that the United States has not yet responded, according to AFP.
After more than a year of talks, the European Union earlier this month submitted what it called a “final” proposed text for a deal.
“Iran responded by saying ‘yes but,’ that is to say they want some adjustments,” said Borrell, according to the report.
Borrell on Monday said that Tehran’s response was deemed “reasonable” and that he expected Washington to weigh in “during this week.”
Meanwhile, Axios reported that U.S. officials have in recent days been seeking to reassure Israel that Washington has not agreed to new concessions to Iran.
However, Jerusalem remains skeptical, and last Thursday Prime Minister Yair Lapid reportedly urged a top U.S. lawmaker to press the Biden administration to ditch the nuclear negotiations.
“In the current situation, the time has come to walk away from the table. Anything else sends a message of weakness to Iran,” said Lapid during a meeting with visiting Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, according to the report.