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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

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 23, 2021 - World

International nuclear weapons ban goes into force

Protesters celebrate the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in New York on Jan. 22. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

A UN treaty outlawing the existence of nuclear weapons went into effect on Friday.

Why it matters: The ban is chiefly symbolic, as neither the U.S. nor any other nuclear powers supported it. But moral statements should have meaning for weapons that, by their sheer indiscriminate power, are arguably immoral.

Biden and Johnson discuss pandemic, NATO and trade in first phone call

Boris Johnson speaks to Joe Biden. Photo: Andrew Parsons/No. 10 Downing Street

President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed on Saturday issues including trade, NATO and the coronavirus pandemic in their first phone call since the U.S. leader's inauguration.

Why it matters: A new trade agreement with the U.S. is a priority for Johnson, whose country completed its economic split with the European Union at the end of last year, AP noted.

Tech digs in for long domestic terror fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With domestic extremist networks scrambling to regroup online, experts fear the next attack could come from a radicalized individual — much harder than coordinated mass events for law enforcement and platforms to detect or deter.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Twitter stepped up enforcement and their conversations with law enforcement ahead of Inauguration Day. But they'll be tested as the threat rises that impatient lone-wolf attackers will lash out.