While the US and Iran have recently denied ongoing negotiations for a temporary nuclear agreement, Jerusalem refuses to accept these denials. It is believed that two Arab countries, including Oman, are mediating between the US and Iran. Israel is deeply concerned about the potential outcome of these negotiations, even if they take a long time to materialize.
According to senior officials in Jerusalem, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Ron Dermer, the Minister of Strategic Affairs, expressed their worries about the Iranian issue following their recent meeting with Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Adviser, in Washington.
Israeli sources claim that the secret negotiations between the US and Iran for a new nuclear agreement are based on the principle of “less for less.” This means reaching a temporary agreement on certain issues that both parties can agree upon. In this case, the focus is on Iran halting uranium enrichment in exchange for the release of its frozen funds in the West, which amount to several hundred billion dollars.
Prime Minister Netanyahu also addressed this topic during a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who had just concluded a visit to Saudi Arabia. Netanyahu explicitly conveyed Israel’s opposition to any US agreement with Iran and emphasized that Israel will not be bound by such an agreement.
Jerusalem fears that the Biden administration may condition the promotion of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia on Israel’s acceptance of a new nuclear agreement between the superpowers and Iran.
Last week, Secretary of State Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, where they discussed various matters, including the potential normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Saudi officials have indicated that there are significant obstacles to advancing the issue. The US is hesitant to meet Saudi conditions, which include supplying a uranium enrichment facility, providing F-35 aircraft, and giving Saudi Arabia the same guarantees as a member state in NATO has, in exchange for a normalization agreement.
The Palestinian issue also poses major obstacles. During Blinken’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan expressed the following viewpoint: “We believe that normalization with Israel will benefit everyone, but without peace for the Palestinian people and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, the gains from normalization with Israel will be limited.”
Senior officials in Jerusalem are concerned about Israel losing influence over the Biden administration and Congress regarding the Iranian nuclear threat. With the Democratic Party in control of the White House and the Senate, which has been critical of the right-wing Israeli government’s policies, especially on the Palestinian issue, it is expected that Israel will struggle to rally opposition in Congress against a new nuclear agreement with Iran.
Additionally, even certain European countries such as Germany, France, and Great Britain are not likely to oppose such an agreement.
The new interim nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers poses several dangers to Israel:
- The agreement is expected to lift the West’s sanctions against Iran.
- While the agreement may temporarily halt uranium enrichment, Iran is already on the verge of becoming a nuclear-capable nation.
During this period, Iran will likely continue its development of nuclear weapons technology and ballistic missile programs.
It may also complete the process of burying its nuclear facilities deep underground to protect them from potential airstrikes.
- The agreement would immediately provide $20 billion to Iran, with several hundred billion dollars to follow. With this influx of funds, Iran could strengthen its military capabilities as well as those of its proxies in the Middle East.
- It would be challenging for Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities while Iran is engaged in a new international nuclear agreement with the world powers.
However, some senior officials in the Israeli security establishment believe that a new temporary nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers might be the lesser of two evils compared to the current situation, where Iran continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions unchecked.
Discussions within the Israeli security establishment regarding the new agreement between the powers and Iran will persist in the coming weeks to develop potential courses of action for Israel.
The country finds itself facing a significant dilemma in this matter.