Israel fears US pushing for interim agreement with Iran

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TEL AVIV – Axios Israeli journalist Barak Ravid revealed Monday that the Biden administration has discussed with European and Israeli counterparts the idea of ​​an interim agreement with Iran. Indirect contacts, the Axios report said, were made by the administration in January, mostly by European representatives. Such a move would see Iran return to its previous 60% enrichment level in return for a partial easing of sanctions and the thawing of some Iranian funds frozen by foreign banks.

“The idea of ​​trying to reach a partial agreement between Iran and the world powers, first of all, testifies to the distress of the US and Israel because of the impasse between the sides, allowing Iran to move towards a nuclear break capability on constant, scary and anxious way. ,” a senior diplomatic source in the Middle East told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “But it shows that the US has no other solution … to postpone the deadline as much as possible – that is, the point of no return to which it must consider using force against Iran, or simply accepted as nuclear power. “

There has been no official confirmation of the report, but it is clear that its basis is one of the ideas being considered by the US administration in light of the accelerated enrichment of the Iranian weapons. It also highlights once again the huge miscalculation of 2018 by then President Donald Trump, under strong pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to pull the United States out of the deal with world powers for the nuclear ambitions of the to contain Iran.

“It was a terrible strategic mistake to withdraw from the agreement, without having an alternative plan, depending on the Iranians to give in to pressure and accept a better and longer-term agreement,” a former senior Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity .

The idea of ​​dealing with Iran is being floated against the backdrop of heightened tensions between Israel and Iran and its proxy Hezbollah. Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) Intelligence Directorate recently issued a strategic warning to the political leadership stating that Israel’s deterrence capability against its enemies is rapidly eroding.

The assessment attributed the erosion to the deep internal division of the Netanyahu government’s efforts to weaken Israel’s supreme court, which has been fueled by the incoordination of IDF pilots and fighters, especially in the reserves. Israeli officials believe this erosion is reflected in Hezbollah’s growing intensity, as demonstrated by the March 13 explosion at a major crossroads of a bomb believed to have been planted there by a Lebanese infiltrator. An Israeli driver was injured in the blast but it could have ended with massive casualties at the busy junction. Officials also note ongoing consultations between Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah and senior Islamic Jihad figures.

The intelligence assessments of Israel’s declining deterrence seem to be falling on deaf ears, as evidenced by Netanyahu’s March 26 announcement that he was firing Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over his expressed objections to reform the government’s controversial judicial decision, and its subsequent reported decision to ban Gallant. dismissal. Netanyahu appears to be torn between his concern about further international and domestic fallout if he goes ahead with Gallant’s termination, as well as the erosion of his control over his government, and the anger of allies demanding that he release Gallant, with his influential sons, including Yair. .

In an apparent attempt to restore its deterrence towards Iran and Hezbollah, Israel has allegedly increased its strikes on targets in Syria, according to reports by the Syrian state-run SANA news outlet. Two Syrian civilians were killed in an airstrike near Damascus early Tuesday, according to Syrian state media, in the fourth airstrike against Iran and Iranian targets in Syria in less than a week. A drone that was infiltrated into Israel on Monday is believed to be of Iranian origin, and was brought down. Israel also brought down another drone on Monday, this one launched by militants in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu has issued warnings in recent days against enemy attempts to take advantage of Israel’s domestic woes. “For the past few days we have been acting outside our borders against regimes that support terror and plot our destruction,” he said. But his warnings do not seem to be particularly effective as hundreds of thousands of Israelis continue to protest against their government. He himself seems more concerned about these domestic challenges than external threats.

The deteriorating relationship between Jerusalem and Washington seems to be increasing Israel’s enemies. President Joe Biden’s refusal to invite Netanyahu to the White House has been widely rejected across the region. Israel, which for years was a gateway to the White House for less popular regimes, is falling apart.

This is also seen in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Cairo. The Israeli government’s decision this week to approve the establishment of a national guard under the control of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir is causing concern at home and abroad as well. And the Jewish activists who called for a biblical-style lamb sacrifice on the Temple Mount to celebrate the holiday of Passover (April 5) were only to exacerbate tensions with Muslims celebrating the holy month of Ramadan with prayers large at the site.

Iran is the biggest beneficiary of these developments. There is little reason, it seems, to fear imminent American-Israeli military action against its nuclear facilities, especially given Biden’s open disdain for Netanyahu and his policies.

The erosion in Israel’s position and Iran’s success is also reflected in the distance between Israel and its allies in the Gulf, especially in light of the accelerated rapprochement by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with Tehran. Netanyahu, whose claim has always been fueled by his firm stance against Iran and its nuclear program, is now liable to credit Iran for achieving nuclear capability and for the collapse of Israel’s deterrence in the Middle East.

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