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Photo: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the delegation traveling to Washington, D.C. next week for strategic talks on Iran to stress their objection to a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal and to refuse to discuss its contents, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: That position is similar to the one Israel took in the year before the 2015 nuclear deal was announced, which led to a rift between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. History could now repeat itself.

  • Netanyahu's stance was criticized at the time by many in the Israeli defense establishment as being counterproductive.

Driving the news: Senior Israeli national security officials will descend on Washington next week for talks on Iran. They include national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Aviv Kochavi, military intelligence chief Tamir Hayman and Mossad director Yossi Cohen.

  • Netanyahu convened a meeting on Thursday with those officials, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to discuss the policies that will be presented in Washington.
  • The decision at the end of the meeting was to stress that a return to the deal would put Israel in danger, and to otherwise decline to discuss the talks in Vienna, an Israeli official said.
  • During the meeting on Thursday, Netanyahu stressed that Israel is not a party to the nuclear deal and is therefore not bound by it in any way.
  • Netanyahu said Israel will act only according to its national security interests, but will maintain its freedom of operation against Iran in the region.  

What’s next: Netanyahu, Gantz and Ashkenazi decided that Israel would be willing to discuss the parameters of a “longer and stronger” nuclear deal in the future, if the U.S. and other world powers decide to go in that direction, per Israeli officials.

Go deeper

Jul 28, 2021 - World

U.S. warns Iran's new government it won't get a better nuclear deal

Ebrahim Raisi. Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

With the new Iranian government about to take office, U.S. officials are stressing that Iran won't win more concessions by attempting to renegotiate the understandings reached in Vienna.

State of play: The U.S. hoped an agreement on returning to the 2015 nuclear deal would be reached before hardliner Ebrahim Raisi took office. But after six rounds of talks, the negotiations were suspended by the Iranians until the new government can form its own negotiating team.

Jul 28, 2021 - World

White House raised NSO spyware concerns with Israel

Photo: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty

The White House raised concerns with Israeli officials about reports that spyware from Israeli firm NSO was used to spy on journalists, human rights activists and opposition figures in several countries around the world, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government gave NSO export licenses to sell its Pegasus spyware to several countries. Media reports about abuse of the technology have already created uproar in Congress and in several European countries, and Israel fears a possible diplomatic crisis.

Jul 28, 2021 - World

Scoop: Israel weighs a return to UNESCO

Jerusalem’s Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

The Israeli government is weighing rejoining the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which Israel left in 2019 together with the U.S., Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: An Israeli return to UNESCO, which promotes the preservation of cultural sites around the world and holds educational programs, could help pave the way for the Biden administration to rejoin the organization — and help fend off criticism from Republicans.

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