Israel makes last push to undermine Biden’s Iran talks

Israeli leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are pushing US President Joe Biden on a possible nuclear deal with Iran (Gil Cohen-Magen - UPI)

Michael F. Brown

The Electronic Intifada  /  August 26, 2022

Benny Gantz, the defense minister of an apartheid state, is in Washington to scuttle US and European Union progress on restoring the 2015 agreement over Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

The Trump administration unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018 – at the urging of Israel and the Israel lobby – and since then Washington has resisted returning to compliance with its terms. That could change in the near future.

Gantz reportedly asserted earlier this week that Israel would “maintain its freedom of action as needed” – language that can only be understood as a threat to use force against Iran, as the regional hegemon has been doing covertly for years.

American military leaders at US Central Command in Florida heard Gantz’s belligerent message on Thursday.

President Joe Biden, however, has reportedly rejected an immediate call on the subject from Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. That call is now expected to take place at a future date.

Gantz is scheduled to meet with national security adviser Jake Sullivan in Washington on Friday, but not with his American counterpart defense secretary Lloyd Austin.

This appears to be a not-so-subtle message that the president has heard enough from Israel on the matter.

Members of Congress are following developments closely and some are upping their rhetoric.

Those politicians who weren’t boycotting, listened closely to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister in March 2015, as he sought – unsuccessfully – in Congress to undermine President Barack Obama’s nuclear discussions with Iran.

This time, some will disregard the fact that the bellicose Gantz bragged in 2019 about how much killing he was responsible for in Gaza in 2014 – as he was in 2021 and again this month.

Many will see that violence targeting Palestinians as a feather in his cap.

Few will consider whether a man who could order and then make light of the calamitous Israeli destruction rained down on Gaza is one to follow when it comes to Iran.

In campaign ads three years ago, Gantz boasted of sending parts of Gaza “back to the Stone Age.”

That is a fate that could await Iran if some in the US Congress and Israeli Knesset get their way.

Gantz has more recently headed the Israeli military’s raiding of Palestinian rights groups, having falsely designated them last year as “terrorist organizations.”

Accused of war crimes, his response has been to declare the organizations gathering the evidence to be “illegal.”

Yet even the CIA has not corroborated the Israeli claims against the Palestinian rights groups.

Close ties

On Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price made clear just how closely the US has been interacting with Israel on the negotiations.

“We’ve been discussing this with our Israeli partners since day one, since going back to the start of this process in Vienna in the spring of last year and really before that.”

“At every step of the process, we have been in touch with our Israeli partners to update them on where we are, to compare notes on the state of Iran’s nuclear program,” Price added. “Of course, Israel, just as we do, has deep concerns about the state of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Nevertheless, Naftali Bennett – until recently Israel’s prime minister – indicated that Israel may take unilateral action if the Biden administration succeeds in reviving the Obama nuclear agreement that Donald Trump jettisoned.

Israel, Bennett said, “is not bound to the agreement either way, is not beholden to any restrictions it may impose and will act to prevent any advancement of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Bennett, like Gantz, is presumably confident that such flagrant disregard for the concerns and interests of its main sponsor would not jeopardize the $3.8 billion in military aid the US provides to Israel every year to bomb Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.

That aid will not be in jeopardy from the Biden administration. When it comes to Iran, however, there is more policy daylight than on Palestinian rights.

Lapid, who recently has been living in a stolen Palestinian home, also signaled his opposition to the deal in a discussion last week with retiring Representative Ted Deutch and US Ambassador Tom Nides.

“In the current situation, the time has come to walk away from the table. Anything else sends a message of weakness to Iran,” said Lapid.

According to JNS, a publication focused on Israel and the Jewish community, the prime minister reportedly urged Deutch, who will soon head the anti-Palestinian and anti-Iranian American Jewish Committee, to tell Biden to abandon the negotiations.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to rail against Iran and a nuclear arrangement. He has lambasted it as a terrible deal, falsely claimed it gives Iran an arsenal of nuclear bombs for use against Israel, and indicated that if he returns as prime minister he will do everything needed to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

At the moment, however, his platform is Fox News and not the US Congress as it was in 2015.

The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah noted in January 2020, shortly after the US assassination of senior Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, that “Israel has relentlessly pushed for the punishing economic war waged by Trump aimed at inflicting suffering on ordinary people and bringing Iran to collapse.”

Biden, while notably slow to act on campaign promises on Iran, has not been as accommodating as Trump of Israel’s hardline position on Iran.

Nevertheless, Israel has continued to murder Iranian scientists – something any country would consider acts of terrorism and war.

All this, of course, transpires even as Israel rejects signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty for somehow being “flawed and hypocritical.”

But no hypocrisy can outdo Israel’s constant fear mongering and incitement over non-existent nuclear weapons, while at the same time Tel Aviv possesses an estimated 90 nuclear warheads of its own.

Unilateralism

Israeli officials are increasingly making clear that they are willing to undercut US negotiations and attack Iran unilaterally if they don’t get their way.

This could have consequences every bit as devastating as the US war on Iraq beginning in 2003.

And in the aftermath of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, Gantz has made clear that Israel will attack first not just in Gaza but in Iran too.

“In the future, if necessary, we will carry out preemptive strikes to protect the citizens of Israel, its sovereignty and infrastructure. This holds true to every front, from Tehran to Khan Younis,” Gantz declared.

This introduces the prospect of profound military miscalculation and dire consequences for the region.

Israel’s politicized intelligence on Palestinian human rights groups gives every reason to fear that its intelligence on Iran will be just as bad.

Gantz, for his part, seems inclined to lurch from deadly encounter to deadly encounter.

If the US signs a deal with Iran or gets even closer to doing so, American officials should be on heightened alert that Israel could seek to spoil the arrangement with an attack on Iran while citing suspect intelligence.

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist