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Netanyahu Will Seek to Avoid a Confrontation With Biden on Iran Nuclear Issue: Report

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

US Vice President Joe Biden (L) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as they deliver joint statements at a meeting in Jerusalem, Israel, March 9, 2016. Photo: Reuters / Debbie Hill / Pool / File.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will seek to avoid a confrontation with the new Biden administration on the Iran nuclear issue, Axios reported on Wednesday.

President Joe Biden and others in his administration have indicated their intention to reach an agreement with Iran on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program, though they have said they will insist on new terms that will be stronger than the deal reached by the Obama administration in 2015.

Netanyahu vehemently opposed the 2015 deal and worked to thwart it, but is now willing to take a less aggressive stance.

A senior Israeli official told Axios that part of the reason is the preliminary tactics adopted by Biden. Obama had conducted talks with Iran in secret, and deliberately excluded Israel from discussions on the issue. Biden’s new Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on the other hand, has said publicly that the administration will consult with Israel and other allies on what form a deal with Iran might take.

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The Israeli official also said that Netanyahu’s personal relationship with Biden is much stronger than that with Obama, which was famously contentious. This could help smooth over disagreements between the two leaders.

Two other Israeli officials said Netanyahu is also well aware of the domestic political situation in America, and that Biden’s Democratic party controls both houses of Congress. This was not the case under Obama, when Netanyahu could turn to Republican allies in the congressional majority for backing.

Nonetheless, one of the officials said, Netanyahu does intend to oppose a renewed US deal with Iran.

“He doesn’t want to tweak it,” said the official. “He thinks the agreement is flawed to its foundations and that the Iranians will agree to compromise only if pressure continues.”

In a likely signal to Biden, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said on Tuesday that the IDF has drawn up new plans for a possible military strike on Iran’s nuclear program.

This marks a shift from the situation in 2015, when the IDF brass and the defense establishment largely opposed a strike on Iran, leaving Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak isolated in their plans for a military option.

Ynet reported Tuesday that Kochavi has officially requested three billion additional shekels from the government in order to finance such an attack.

Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz will reportedly support the allocation.

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