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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Israel is drafting a strategy for engaging with the incoming Biden administration on Iran, two Israeli officials tell me.

What they're saying: “We don’t want to be left out again," Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told the Knesset foreign relations committee in a classified hearing last week. He said Israel had to avoid the mistakes that left it isolated as the Obama administration negotiated the 2015 Iran deal.

  • Ashkenazi said Israel's hardline approach made it almost irrelevant to the process and left it without any influence on the deal's contents, two officials who attended the hearing told me.
  • Where things stand: Biden's plan is to return to the deal if Iran returns to compliance and then attempt to negotiate a broader, longer-lasting agreement.

Flashback: During the negotiations between 2013–2015, Israel hardly attempted to reach any understandings with the White House about the deal and instead campaigned against it.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went behind Barack Obama's back to then-House Speaker John Boehner to organize a speech in Congress opposing the deal.

What's happening: The Israeli Foreign Ministry has formed a special team, led by Ashkenazi, to focus on how Israel can remain in the loop and influence any negotiations the Biden administration might have with Iran, Israeli officials say.

  • Ashkenazi told the hearing that the team's goal is to make sure any future nuclear deal with Iran contains elements that are important for Israel.
  • In his view, that means convincing Biden to link the nuclear issue to Iran's missile program and regional behavior.

Behind the scenes: According to the officials who attended the classified hearing, Ashkenazi said the Foreign Ministry thinks the Biden administration will follow through on Biden's plan to push for a renewed nuclear deal.

  • But he added that he believes Biden’s team is aware that the 2015 deal had weaknesses and will try to address them.
  • Ashkenazi said the Foreign Ministry has already made preliminary contacts with members of the Biden transition team to establish channels of communication.

Yes, but: The current Israeli government is dysfunctional and fractured. Ashkenazi is considered one of Netanyahu’s main political opponents, and they have significant policy differences, including on Iran.

  • It's unclear if Netanyahu shares Ashkenazi’s views on how to engage with the Biden administration.
  • Netanyahu’s closest confidant, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, said Monday that it would be a mistake for Biden to go back to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Worth noting: Ashkenazi said in the hearing that the Iranians were preparing to renew talks with whoever won the U.S. elections, and he added: “We don’t know with which U.S. administration the deal would have been more problematic for us."

Go deeper

18 hours ago - World

Israel headed for early elections as Gantz-Netanyahu coalition falls apart

Gantz (L) with Netanyahu. Photo: Gali Tibbon/Pool/AFP via Getty

Israel's governing coalition is falling apart, setting the stage for the fourth election in two years.

Driving the news: Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced tonight that his Blue and White party would vote in favor of dissolving parliament on Wednesday because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — Gantz's political rival turned coalition partner — was refusing to pass a budget and reneging on their power-sharing deal.

Legacy civil rights groups: Biden's transition needs to include us

President-elect Joe Biden at the NAACP 110th National Convention last year. Photo: Bill Pugliano via Getty

Prominent civil rights leaders are concerned that President-elect Joe Biden is deciding his administration without their input, NBC News reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: As Biden looks to deliver his promise of forming a diverse administration, he will have to contend with different factions of the liberal movement that might pull him in different directions.

1 hour ago - Sports

The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Packed stadiums and a more normal fan experience could return by late 2021, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said yesterday.

Why it matters: If Fauci's prediction comes true, it could save countless programs from going extinct next year.