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Benny Gantz (left), Yair Lapid (center) and Naftali Bennett. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty

Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz will visit Washington Thursday as part of a renewed diplomatic push to influence the U.S. position on Iran amid the impasse in the nuclear talks.

The backstory: There is an internal debate inside the Israeli government about the best way to influence the U.S. position, with Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid growing concerned with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's increasingly confrontational approach, Israeli officials say.

  • Bennett promised President Biden when they met in August that he wouldn't engage in a Benjamin Netanyahu-style public campaign against a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
  • But only 100 days later, Bennett is doing just that — drifting into a policy of criticizing the U.S. position and publicly opposing any talks with Iran.
  • Gantz is lobbying for a quieter approach of private engagement with the Biden administration.

Behind the scenes: Israeli officials say Bennett’s decision to abandon the commitment he gave Biden was influenced by his hawkish foreign policy adviser, Shimrit Meir, who is critical of the Biden administration’s approach.

  • Although national security adviser Eyal Hulata is the official point person for dialogue with the White House on Iran, Meir is Bennett's most influential adviser on this issue.

Driving the news: Gantz will land in Washington just as another round of nuclear negotiations begins in Vienna. He'll meet Thursday with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Tony Blinken.

  • Ahead of the trip, Gantz met the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides.
  • The director of the Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, is also in Washington this week for talks with CIA director Bill Burns and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, according to Israeli officials.

Gantz is expected to stress that the U.S. must convince the Iranians they face a credible U.S. military threat — through additional diplomatic pressure and a projection of power in the region — in order to get Iran to return to the 2015 deal, Israeli officials say.

  • Between the lines: While the Israeli government opposes a restoration of the 2015 deal, Gantz and many in the Israeli security establishment believe the current limbo is actually far more dangerous.
  • Israeli defense officials say Gantz thinks the stalemate in the Vienna talks gives Israel more time to work with the Biden administration on developing a "plan B."
  • Gantz is also expected to raise the delay in congressional approval for $1 billion in aid to replenish Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket system. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is holding up a vote in the Senate.

What to watch: The Israeli government is content with the deadlock in Vienna so long as it leads to more sanctions on Iran rather than an alternative approach that's more favorable to Tehran.

  • One such option, Israeli officials say, is an interim deal in which the Iranians get wide-ranging sanctions relief in return for suspending their 60% uranium enrichment.
  • The U.S. floated this idea with the Israelis several weeks ago, but Iran has said it wouldn't agree to such an interim deal. The Israelis also oppose any interim deal.

Go deeper: U.S. floats interim Iran nuclear deal

Go deeper

Jan 14, 2022 - World

U.S. braces for Russian escalation as talks hit “dead end”

OSCE Chairman-in-Office Zbigniew Rau said Thursday "the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever." Photo: Askin Kiyagan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The crisis over Russia's threatening military buildup on the border with Ukraine entered a dangerous and unpredictable new phase in both Vienna and Washington on Thursday.

Driving the news: Russian diplomats said this week's round of security talks from Geneva and Brussels to Vienna have resulted in a "dead end," and it's time for them to return to Moscow to brief President Vladimir Putin on the "very disappointing" state of affairs before deciding the path forward.

Why 401(k) rollovers are so annoying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you happened to change jobs recently, you may have tried to transfer your retirement account from your former employer into an Individual Retirement Account or your new employer's 401(k) plan. If so, you probably encountered a bureaucratic gantlet — and you're not alone.

Why it matters: Kludgey processes around retirement account transfers result in people losing track of their funds, giving up important tax advantages, or otherwise disadvantaging themselves and being less prepared for retirement.

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.