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Yossi Cohen (R) is one potential envoy for Netanyahu (L). Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is forming an interagency team to prepare a strategy for engaging the Biden administration on the Iran nuclear file, officials in the Prime Minister’s office tell me.

  • He's also considering appointing a special envoy for talks with Biden over the Iran nuclear deal.
  • Flashback: Last week, I disclosed a letter in which Netanyahu had demanded full control of Israel's Iran policy ahead of Biden’s inauguration, leading Defense Minister Benny Gantz to reply that the matter was not simply Netanyahu's "personal business."
  • The state of play: Netanyahu appears to be settling on a hybrid approach: forming an interagency team, but also potentially appointing an envoy to negotiate on his behalf.

One name that's been raised for the envoy role is Mossad director Yossi Cohen. Cohen is in Washington this week but hasn’t requested meetings with Biden’s team, Israeli official say.

  • Another possibility is the outgoing ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, who has a frosty relationship with Biden’s team but is Netanyahu's closest adviser.
  • Other options could include Yaakov Amidror or Yaakov Nagel, both former national security advisors to Netanayhu.

The big picture: The Biden and Netanyahu administrations could be on course for an early clash over the Iran nuclear deal.

  • Biden intends to return to the deal if Iran returns to compliance, and then seek to negotiate a broader deal. Netanyahu contends that would be a “big mistake."
  • Netanyahu’s aides have been grumbling that Biden will be surrounded by "Obama people" — including the deal's architects and some of its fiercest advocates.

What they're saying: “If we just go back to the JCPOA, what will happen and may already be happening is that many other countries in the Middle East will rush to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. That is a nightmare and that is folly. It should not happen," Netanyahu said last Thursday when he met Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Jerusalem.

Go deeper

Jan 28, 2021 - World

Israel's chief epidemiologist creates diplomatic incident with UAE

Israeli travelers arrive in Dubai. Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images

A remark by Israel’s chief epidemiologist suggesting the opening of direct flights from Dubai to Tel Aviv had led to COVID-19 deaths in Israel resulted in diplomatic protests from the UAE, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Direct flights were one of the main fruits of the Israel-UAE peace treaty, and around 130,000 Israeli tourists have taken advantage by flying to Dubai since December.

Jan 28, 2021 - World

Biden turns the page on Trump's Israel-Palestine policies

Biden with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2010. Photo: David Furst/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration laid out its Israel-Palestine policy at the UN Security Council on Tuesday, highlighting the importance of repairing ties with the Palestinian Authority.

Driving the news: According to the new policies, the U.S. will resume aid to the Palestinians and reopen the PLO office in Washington and the consulate in Jerusalem.

Tim Scott hopes to reintroduce version of GOP police reform bill

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters Wednesday he plans to reintroduce his police reform bill or a similar proposal in the coming weeks and that he has discussed a potential compromise with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Why it matters: Eyes have again turned to Washington to take steps to address police reform in the wake of Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict Tuesday, after efforts stalled in Congress last year.