Jan 13, 2021 - World

Netanyahu may appoint envoy to Biden administration on Iran

Yossi Cohen (R) is one potential envoy for Netanyahu (L). Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is forming an interagency team to prepare a strategy for engaging the Biden administration on the Iran nuclear file, officials in the Prime Minister’s office tell me.

  • He's also considering appointing a special envoy for talks with Biden over the Iran nuclear deal.
  • Flashback: Last week, I disclosed a letter in which Netanyahu had demanded full control of Israel's Iran policy ahead of Biden’s inauguration, leading Defense Minister Benny Gantz to reply that the matter was not simply Netanyahu's "personal business."
  • The state of play: Netanyahu appears to be settling on a hybrid approach: forming an interagency team, but also potentially appointing an envoy to negotiate on his behalf.

One name that's been raised for the envoy role is Mossad director Yossi Cohen. Cohen is in Washington this week but hasn’t requested meetings with Biden’s team, Israeli official say.

  • Another possibility is the outgoing ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, who has a frosty relationship with Biden’s team but is Netanyahu's closest adviser.
  • Other options could include Yaakov Amidror or Yaakov Nagel, both former national security advisors to Netanayhu.

The big picture: The Biden and Netanyahu administrations could be on course for an early clash over the Iran nuclear deal.

  • Biden intends to return to the deal if Iran returns to compliance, and then seek to negotiate a broader deal. Netanyahu contends that would be a “big mistake."

What they're saying: “If we just go back to the JCPOA, what will happen and may already be happening is that many other countries in the Middle East will rush to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. That is a nightmare and that is folly. It should not happen," Netanyahu said last Thursday when he met Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Jerusalem.

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