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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

Apr 21, 2021 - World

U.S.-Israel tensions build as Iran talks progress

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Eric Baradat (AFP), Gali Tibbon (AFP)/Getty Images

As nuclear talks in Vienna enter a critical stage, the gaps and suspicions over Iran between the Israeli government and the Biden administration are growing.

Why it matters: Both sides want to avoid the kind of public fight that emerged during the negotiations over the 2015 deal. But in private, there's growing frustration on both sides about the lack of trust, coordination and transparency.

Apr 21, 2021 - World

Netanyahu tries to change election rules as mandate slips away

Netanyahu addresses supporters. Photo: Noam Moskowitz/picture alliance via Getty

With his mandate to form a government due to expire in two weeks, and his rivals' efforts to form an alternative coalition gaining momentum, Netanyahu has a new strategy: changing the election rules.

Why it matters: If Netanyahu can’t form a coalition by May 4, he will face the real danger of losing the prime minister’s post for the first time in 12 years.

Apr 21, 2021 - World

U.S. presented Iran roadmap on sanctions relief in Vienna talks

The setting for the talks. Photo: EU Delegation in Vienna via Getty

During this week's nuclear talks in Vienna, the U.S. provided Iran with an outline of the sanctions it was prepared to remove as part of a mutual return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, a senior State Department official told reporters on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Iran has thus far demanded that the roughly 1,500 sanctions imposed by the Trump administration all be lifted, but the Biden administration says that's a non-starter.

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