Bennett shouldn’t be talking about compensation if Biden returns to JCPOA

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

Based on the White House reading, both leaders seek to demonstrate the strength of the alliance. However, Biden’s desire to rejoin the deadly flawed 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the joint comprehensive plan of action, remains a deep concern for Israel.

It is clear that the regime continues to violate the JCPOA. It enriches uranium to 60%. It works on uranium metal. And it blocks the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Association from their monitoring mission in Iran. The IAEA, the international nuclear supervisory authority, confirmed this with its verification and monitoring report dated August 16. The E3 (Great Britain, France and Germany) stated in their statement of 19.

Robert Malley, the leading American negotiator at the Vienna talks, who appears determined to rejoin the JCPOA at any cost, did not come as a surprise about this or about the request for a special IAEA report to be published. But he can have bigger problems on his hands. After six rounds, nuclear talks will stall because of Iran’s intransigence. The incumbent President of the Islamic Republic, Ebrahim Raisi, said he would send negotiators to continue talks but does not seem interested in making nuclear concessions to the West. Rumor has it that talks will not resume until September.

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

The concern over the past few years has been the time of the outbreak of Iran. Washington’s focus for years has been to limit Iran’s outbreak time to one year. That is now impossible and irrelevant. After years of fraud on the fringes (and even bolder lately) the regime will not break out. It will “sneak out” using more and more advanced centrifuges that are easier to hide because fewer of them are needed.

THE REAL challenge for Bennett is now to convince Biden to tackle all three major components of the Iranian nuclear program: production of fissile materials, armaments and means of transportation.

Bennett is not expected to argue with the White House. The facts are hard to deny. The only question now is how the policies of the two countries can be coordinated.

Israel’s policy is relatively straightforward. Israel cannot be part of a new agreement that includes a return to the old flawed JCPOA. Israel must maintain its full freedom of action to target elements of the Iranian nuclear program while strengthening its military options for the future handling of Iranian nuclear capacities.

Such actions would ideally take place with the United States. But Israel is very ready to operate on its own if necessary. Should that happen, Israel will never get US approval for it. In fact, it would make it harder for the Biden team to make a plausible denial of including America after a strike.

In the meantime, Israel wants to promote a partnership with the US in gathering information about the Iranian weapons program. The IAEA should help too. Washington should not accept Iran’s demands in this area, not even in part: not reopen the weapons file, not use the archival data, and not respond to the latest IAEA findings.

After all, Israel sincerely hopes that Washington does not capitulate to Tehran in the negotiations. Iran should not be rewarded for its intransigence. The regime should not receive any compensation for complying with international standards and agreements.

Nor should Israel hold talks with the US on a follow-up agreement until Iran agrees to curb its nuclear ambitions and begin negotiations on such an agreement.

Bennett comes to Washington as head of a coalition that represents a wide range 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 speak on behalf of the vast majority of Israelis. All other regional and diplomatic issues between Washington and Jerusalem can be dealt with later. Bennett should not mistakenly hold talks about “compensation” to Israel in the event of a return to the JCPOA.

This is the first and only priority for Israel. It has never been more important for Israel to clarify its positions and the need for the United States to support them. This is especially important if Israel is to act alone.

The author is a Senior Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a visiting professor in the Aerospace Faculty of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. He previously served as Acting National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chairman of the National Security Council.

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