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February 19, 2021 1:32 pm

Concern in Israel Over US Announcement Welcoming Nuclear Talks With Iran

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wears a protective face mask as he delivers a joint statement with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Jerusalem January 7, 2021. Photo: Emil Salman/Pool via REUTERS

A Thursday announcement by the United States that it was ready to talk directly with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement was met with concern in Israel, amid accelerating Iranian breaches of the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities.

“Israel remains committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons and its position on the nuclear agreement has not changed,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in a statement Friday. “Israel believes that going back to the old agreement will pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal. Israel is in close contact with the United States on this matter.”

In a joint announcement Thursday with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom — three other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “if Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end. ”

The agreement — struck in 2015 by those nations plus Iran, China, Russia and the European Union — has been met with a series breaches by Iran over the last two years, following then-US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw. The Islamic Republic has promised that by Feb. 23, it will scale back cooperation with United Nations’ nuclear watchdog if the US does not reverse sanctions.

President Joe Biden has said that he would not do so until Iran returned to compliance. But Israeli officials have feared that any new accord may not do enough to restrain Iran’s malign activities in the region, and could ultimately leave the country within striking distance of a nuclear bomb.

During an interview Friday with the New York Times, Cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said that it “has to be an agreement that will be valid for generations. Anything else will not achieve the goal of preventing a nuclear Iran.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met the American announcement harshly, tweeting that “Instead of sophistry & putting onus on Iran, E3/EU must abide by own commitments & demand an end to Trump’s legacy of #EconomicTerrorism against Iran[.]

Reuters reported Friday that the Biden Administration had given Israel advance notice before the announcement, citing an unnamed source familiar with the matter.

On Twitter, Foundation for Defense of Democracies CEO Mark Dubowitz questioned that reporting, writing, “My understanding is that this is not true. US did not inform Israel ahead of major Iran policy announcement.”

US Jewish groups also expressed concerns about the prospect of new US-Iran talks, with the American Jewish Committee telling Biden, “don’t fall for Tehran’s threats, work with regional allies, keep the pressure on.”

“Before taking a single step toward returning to negotiations with Iran, we should be insisting that Iran fulfill their existing international obligations,” said Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks. “It would be an historic mistake for the Biden administration to pursue an Iran policy based on weakness and concessions.”

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