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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told CIA Director Bill Burns in a meeting on Wednesday that the U.S. and Israel should start working on a joint strategy for a scenario in which Iran elects not to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: The Israeli intelligence community, foreign ministry and other national security agencies think the likelihood of Iran deciding to return to the deal has waned in recent weeks after the election of new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi.

  • The Israeli government is concerned that the U.S. and other Western powers won't push back hard as Iran moves ahead with its nuclear program.
  • The Biden administration is still seeking a path back to the 2015 deal, but the talks are on hold as the new Iranian administration takes office.

Driving the news: The issue was the focus of Burns’ talks in Israel with Bennett, President Isaac Herzog, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Mossad director David Barnea.

  • Israeli officials viewed the meeting as part of the preparations for Bennett's meeting with President Biden, planned for later this month in Washington.
  • During the meeting, Bennett presented Burns with his assessment of, and policy toward, Iran. Israeli officials said their impression was that Burns was also skeptical about whether Iran was ready to return to full compliance with the deal.

What they're saying: “It was important for the Prime Minister to make it clear that when we say we think it is a mistake to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, it is not an automatic continuation of the Netanyahu government’s policy and that we have a different approach," a senior Israeli official told me.

“I am not among the supporters of the 2015 nuclear deal but I don’t see any plan B [if Iran doesn’t return to the deal.] We are talking about it with the U.S. and our European allies behind the scenes.”
— Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday 

Go deeper

Oct 25, 2021 - World

U.S. and allies plan next moves if Iran won't resume nuclear talks

Rob Malley. Photo: Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency/Getty

The Biden administration is discussing potential next steps with partners in the Middle East and Europe if Iran doesn't return to negotiations in Vienna, U.S. Iran envoy Rob Malley told reporters in a conference call on Monday.

Why it matters: Talks have been frozen since Iran's new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected in June, and the Iranians continue to say they need more time to prepare to reenter the negotiations. In the meantime, Iran’s nuclear program is making significant advances, with uranium enrichment levels moving ever closer to the 90% grade needed to produce a nuclear weapon.

Oct 26, 2021 - World

Ted Cruz will lift his confirmation blockade for Biden’s ambassador to China

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) does not plan on stalling the confirmation of President Biden's ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, as he has done with dozens of other State Department nominees, according to a source familiar with the decision.

Why it matters: Burns, a former career diplomat widely viewed as one of Biden's most qualified nominees, will be tasked with managing the president's defining foreign-policy challenge: preventing "intense competition" with China from spiraling into outright conflict.

Texas House probes school library books dealing with race and sexuality

Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Texas state Rep. Matt Krause (R), chair of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, announced Wednesday that he's initiating a probe into schools' library books, according to a letter sent to the state's education agency and other superintendents.

Why it matters: The probe focuses on books that discuss race, sexuality, or "make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex," Krause wrote in the letter.