Apr 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

U.S. and Israel will hold Iran talks amid stalemate in nuclear negotiations

Biden and bennett
President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel will hold a new round of strategic talks this week focusing on Iran's nuclear program and countering its activity in the region, Israeli and U.S. officials said.

Why it matters: The talks will take place amid a deep stalemate in indirect negotiations between the U.S. and Iran over reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement.

  • The Biden administration has recently started discussing a scenario in which the nuclear deal isn’t revived. Israel is pressing the administration to cooperate on a “Plan B” in case that happens.

Driving the news: Israel’s national security adviser Eyal Hulata will arrive in Washington later this week for meetings with his White House counterpart, Jake Sullivan, U.S. and Israeli officials said.

  • Hulata will head an interagency delegation for a meeting of the U.S.-Israel strategic working group on Iran.
  • President Biden spoke on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and discussed shared regional and global security challenges, including the threat posed by Iran and its proxies, the White House said.
  • Bennett discussed with Biden Iran's demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations list, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

What they are saying: "I am sure that President Biden, who is a true friend of Israel and cares about its security, will not allow the IRGC to be removed from the list of terrorist organizations," Bennett said in a statement after the call.

  • "Israel has clarified its position on the issue: The IRGC is the largest terrorist organization in the world."

Biden and Bennett have formed a personal relationship that enabled both countries to arrive at common positions on difficult matters, the White House wrote in a statement Sunday.

Background: The U.S. and Israel developed a working group, code-named “Opal” ("Leshem" in Hebrew), in the early days of the Obama administration. It was headed by the national security advisers on both sides.

  • It was the main venue for strategizing over how to apply pressure on Iran during Obama’s first term, and it became the primary setting to air disagreements about the nuclear deal during his second term.
  • During Trump's tenure, the forum convened to discuss the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and to coordinate the "maximum pressure" campaign.
  • In February, when Benjamin Netanyahu was still prime minister, the Biden administration proposed that the forum reconvene, and the group met in March and April.
  • When Bennett visited the White House in August, he and Biden agreed to resume the working group. It has convened three times since then.

What’s next: The Prime Minister’s Office said Biden accepted Bennett’s invitation to visit Israel and told him he intends to do it in the coming months. The White House confirmed that in its statement.

Go deeper