August 22, 2021 | The Jerusalem Post

Bennett should not enter talks about compensation if Biden returns to JCPOA

Iran is the first and only priority for Israel. Never has it been more important for Israel to clarify its positions and the need for the United States to support them.
August 22, 2021 | The Jerusalem Post

Bennett should not enter talks about compensation if Biden returns to JCPOA

Iran is the first and only priority for Israel. Never has it been more important for Israel to clarify its positions and the need for the United States to support them.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s first meeting with President Joe Biden is planned for August 26. Israel’s new national security adviser, Dr. Eyal Hulata, recently visited Washington to prepare for this meeting with his counterpart, Jake Sullivan.

Based on the White House readout, both leaders seek to demonstrate the strength of the alliance. However, Biden’s desire to reenter the fatally flawed 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, remains a deep concern for Israel.

It is clear that the regime continues to violate the JCPOA. It is enriching uranium to 60%. It is working on uranium metal. And it is blocking International Atomic Energy Association inspectors from their monitoring mission in Iran. The IAEA, the international nuclear watchdog, confirmed this with its August 16 verification and monitoring report. The E3 (UK, France and Germany) has also expressed its deep concerns about Iran uranium metal work, in its August 19 statement.

Robert Malley, the top American negotiator at the Vienna talks, who appears to be determined to reenter the JCPOA at any cost, has been unsurprisingly quiet about this, and about a request to publish a special IAEA report. But he may have bigger problems on his hands. After six rounds, the nuclear talks are stalled because of Iranian intransigence. While the inaugurated president of the Islamic Republic, Ebrahim Raisi, declared he will send negotiators to continue the talks, he does not appear to be interested in making any nuclear concessions to the West. Rumors suggest that the talks will not resume until September.

In his first press conference, Raisi acknowledged that Iran would never renegotiate a “longer and stronger” deal – a fiction that the Biden team proposed as the next goal after reentering the JCPOA. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei backed up the new president in a statement.

The concern in years past was Iran’s breakout time. Washington’s focus for years was keeping Iran’s breakout time to one year. That’s now impossible and irrelevant. After years of cheating on the margins (and more brazenly lately), the regime will not break out. It will “sneak out” by employing increasingly advanced centrifuges, which are easier to hide because fewer of them are needed.

Any return to the old faulty JCPOA will be worse than the original agreement; it will be “JCPOA Minus, Minus.”

THE REAL challenge now for Bennett is to convince Biden to address all three main components of Iran’s nuclear program: production of fissile materials, weaponization and means of delivery.

Bennett is not expected to argue with the White House. The facts are hard to dispute. The only question now is how the two countries’ policies can align.

Israel’s policy is relatively straightforward. Israel cannot be part of any new agreement that involves returning to the old faulty JCPOA. Israel must maintain full freedom of action to target elements of the Iranian nuclear program, while strengthening its military options for dealing with Iranian nuclear capabilities in the future.

Such actions would ideally take place in tandem with the United States. But Israel is very willing to operate on its own, if needed. Should it come to that, Israel will never look for approval from the United States to do so. In fact, implicating America would make it more difficult for the Biden team to assert plausible deniability after a strike.

In the meantime, Israel wants to encourage a partnership with the US in gathering intelligence on Iran’s weaponization program. The IAEA should help, too. Washington should not accept Iran’s demands in this area, even in part: not reopening the weaponization file, not using the archive data and not answering the latest IAEA’s findings.

Finally, it is Israel’s fervent hope that Washington does not capitulate to Tehran in negotiations. Iran should not be rewarded for its intransigence. The regime should receive no compensation for abiding by international norms and agreements.

Israel should also not entertain any discussions with the US about a follow-on agreement until Iran agrees to curb its nuclear ambitions and enter negotiations on such an agreement.

Bennett comes to Washington as the head of a coalition that represents a wide array of parties and political perspectives. When he tells Biden why a return to the JCPOA is bad for both the United States and Israel, he will be speaking on behalf of the vast majority of Israelis. All other regional and diplomatic issues between Washington and Jerusalem can be addressed later. Bennett should not mistakenly enter any talks about “compensation” to Israel if a return to the JCPOA will happen.

This is the first and only priority for Israel. Never has it been more important for Israel to clarify its positions and the need for the United States to support them. This is particularly crucial if Israel is to act alone.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a visiting professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. He previously served as acting national security adviser to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and as head of the National Security Council. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.

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Issues:

Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Nuclear Israel