Aug 26, 2019

Top Israeli officials alarmed by possible U.S.-Iran talks

Netanyahu and Trump at the White House. Photo: Jabin Botsford/Washington Post via Getty

The Israeli government is deeply concerned about the possibility of new U.S.-Iran nuclear talks, which President Trump discussed today alongside President Emmanuel Macron of France, 3 Israeli Cabinet ministers and 2 senior Israeli officials involved in Iran policy tell me. 

Why it matters: The pressure campaign against Iran has been the main point of collaboration between the Netanyahu government and the Trump administration, and Netanyahu saw Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal as a signature foreign policy achievement. A loosening of Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran could create tension with Israel.

Behind the scenes: Israeli officials tell me the prospect of renewed talks between the U.S. and Iran has been discussed by Israel's Security Cabinet several times lately.

  • The Israeli government is concerned that a summit between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could happen very soon. They fear the ensuing process will be similar to U.S.-North Korea talks, thus taking pressure off the Iranian regime.

What they're saying:

"We have no interest in talks between the U.S. and Iran, but our ability to influence Trump or confront him on this issue is pretty limited."
— Israeli Cabinet minister
"We were very lucky that until now the Iranians rejected all of Trump's proposals for talks."
— Senior Israeli official involved in Iran policy

Driving the news: Macron said today at the press conference with Trump that he thinks conditions are ripe for a meeting in the coming weeks.

  • Trump confirmed that he'd be willing to meet Rouhani, who said hours earlier that he'd be ready to meet Trump if such a meeting would solve the problems of the Iranian people.

What to watch: One possible venue could be next month's UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Trump, Rouhani and Macron are all expected to attend. Netanyahu, meanwhile, might not be at the annual meeting because it falls 10 days after Israel's elections. 

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