Pres. Biden invited Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to the White a few months ago and both tried to turn over a new leaf in US-Israel relations after the horror show of eight years of bile between Obama and Netanyahu, and four years of turmoil during the Trump presidency. Bennett was hailed here as a breath of fresh air compared to his predecessor. All the flattery and good cheer seemed to have worked. The Israeli leader appeared to accede to Biden’s commitment to pursue negotiations for a return to JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran:
…He [Bennett] promised Joe Biden, in their private conversation in the White House towards the end of August, that he, unlike you-know-who, will not conduct a public campaign against the administration. He will not act behind the president’s back in Congress. He will express Israel’s position, and the practical work will be conducted through the diplomatic channels.
All this nicey-nice from the Israelis would have been anathema to Netanyahu. In return, follow-up visits to Washington by both foreign minister, Yair Lapid and defense minister, Benny Gantz, happened. Finally, the two allies appeared to be singing, if not in unison, at least in something resembling harmony.
But as the negotiations appear to have stalled, with Iran’s hardline leadership abandoning the negotiating positions of its predecessor, the Israeli knives have come out again. Just before the nuclear talks resumed earlier this week, Secretary of State Blinken held a contentious phone consultation with Bennett in which he excoriated the Israeli leader after his government renewed a plan for 2,000 units of new settlement housing, which it had tabled only days before.
Even more irksome was Blinken’s demand that Israel cease any sabotage operations targeting Iran’s nuclear program during the JCPOA talks. This is an unprecedented public exposure of a rift between the US, which is focused on a diplomatic solution and Israel, which never met a problem that couldn’t be fixed by firing bullets at it. Yediot Achronot, which first reported this exchange, did not say how Bennett responded. But the fact that media reports have noted how tense the call was, indicate all was not roses. Further proof of this is two separate strident statements from Bennett and Mossad chief, David Barnea. The former stated that the talks had already proven themselves to be a failure and that the Europeans and US should walk away and refuse to give in to Iran’s “nuclear blackmail.” Which is rich, considering that Israel isn’t a party to the talks and should have no say in how they are conducted. Joe Biden already has enough trouble on his hands with a stalled domestic legislative agenda, plummeting poll ratings, and nettlesome Iranian interlocutors, without adding a petulant Israeli leader to the list.
To add insult to injury, Barnea launched into a rant against Iran in which he said:
“Iran will not have nuclear weapons — not in the coming years, not ever. That is my promise, that is Mossad’s promise. Our eyes are open, we are prepared, and we will do…everything that is necessary to alleviate the threat against Israel and thwart it by any means.”Barnea said that a “bad” deal between Iran and the world power will be intolerable.The top spy said there was no need for any country to have three nuclear sites able to enrich uranium to 60%, for anything other than military purposes and the production of a nuclear weapon.