Israeli Defense Chief Heading to US Amid Iran Deal Developments: ‘Israel Is Not a Party to This Agreement’
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz will travel to the United States this week, his office announced Tuesday, as Iran and world powers made progress towards reviving a nuclear accord strongly opposed by Israel.
Gantz, who will fly abroad on Thursday, is expected to meet with the White House’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, as well as Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of US Central Command. Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata met with Sullivan in Washington, DC on Tuesday.
The news comes as the US is reviewing a draft agreement to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was brought forward by the European Union and adjusted by Iran. The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he hopes for a US response as early as this week, though the State Department on Monday did not commit to a timeline. The department’s spokesperson only confirmed that a review of the proposal is underway and that a deal is now “closer,” in part due to Iran withdrawing its demand that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — Iran’s top military force — no longer be designated as a terrorist organization.
“We are in contact with our American partners,” Gantz said at a Tuesday meeting of his new National Unity party, “and with countries in the region that are threatened no less by Iran — of course, without also going into details regarding our ability to defend ourselves and take care of things that will ensure Israel’s security for any years.”
“We will do as much as we can to influence the agreement,” the minister added. “You need to remember — this is not an agreement between us and the Iranians. Israel is not a party to this agreement, and it will know to maintain her freedom of action as much as necessary.”
Struck in 2015, the JCPOA imposed temporary limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from biting economic sanctions. Washington withdrew from the agreement in 2018, arguing that the original deal did not permanently cut off Iran’s pathway to a bomb and failed to address auxillary issues, including missile development.
Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned on Monday that the deal’s latest iteration contains “new elements that go beyond the limits of the original” accord, and will provide an economic boon to Iran, which backs US-designated terrorist groups across the Middle East, including on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip.