Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that he wouldn't rule out a meeting between President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the near future, claiming that he has full confidence in Trump’s tough negotiating ability, Axios contributor Barak Ravid reports from London.
Why it matters: This was the first time Netanyahu has spoken publicly about the possibility of direct talks between the Trump administration and the Iranian regime.
- Netanyahu has previously stressed that now is not the time for talks with Iran, urging the U.S. to maintain its campaign of "maximum pressure" sanctions. He scrambled to stop Trump from spontaneously meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the G7 last month.
- But today's comments suggest the prime minister may be coming to terms with the inevitability of a Trump-Rouhani meeting, which could take place as early as next week at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
Between the lines: Netanyahu is fighting for his political future in Israel's Sept. 17 elections. His close relationship with Trump, especially in the context of the U.S.' hardline stance on Iran, has been a core argument of his campaign.
- Netanyahu views Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 as a signature foreign policy achievement.
- The reopening of nuclear talks between the U.S. and Iran could deal a devastating blow to Netanyahu's re-election odds.
P.S. Jason Greenblatt, a key member of the White House's Middle East "peace team," will be leaving the Trump administration in the next several weeks to return to the private sector.
- His departure suggests that the political component of the White House's Israeli-Palestinian peace plan may finally be released this fall, after a series of delays.
- Most of Greenblatt's responsibilities will be transferred to Jared Kushner's 30-year-old deputy, Avi Berkowitz.