New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will press President Biden during their first face-to-face meeting at the White House on Thursday to abandon efforts to return to the Iran nuclear deal.
Bennett met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Wednesday and insisted that he would make the Obama-era agreement a top priority, arguing that Iran has already advanced its uranium enrichment and that easing sanctions would provide the Islamic regime more resources to fund Israel’s enemies in the Middle East.
The White House huddle comes as Biden is under intense scrutiny and pressure to evacuate the thousands of Americans, Afghans and allies from Afghanistan after the Taliban in a lightning military offensive took control of the country more than a week ago.
Before leaving for Washington, Bennett told his Cabinet that he would tell Biden “that now is the time to halt the Iranians, to stop this thing” and not to reenter “a nuclear deal that has already expired and is not relevant, even to those who thought it was once relevant,” according to the Associated Press.
Biden will tell Bennett that the US is committed to a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a senior administration official said, adding that is the “best way to put a ceiling on the program and roll back the gains that Iran has made over recent years on the nuclear side. But obviously, if that doesn’t work, there are other avenues.”
The official also said that since the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement, “Iran’s nuclear program has just dramatically broken out of the box, and it’s accelerating from week to week. This is a very serious problem, and the two leaders, I think, will have the opportunity to sit together and discuss what to do about it.”
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that Iran is perilously close to having the ability to produce a nuclear weapon and called on the international community to work together to prevent that from happening.
“Iran is only two months away from acquiring the materials necessary for a nuclear weapon,” Gantz said at a meeting of ambassadors in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“We do not know if the Iranian regime will be willing to sign an agreement and come back to the negotiation table – and the international community must build a viable ‘Plan B’ in order to stop Iran in its tracks toward a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Gantz said a nuclear-armed Iran would spark an arms race in the region, and suggested that Israel may be willing to take military action to prevent that from occurring.
“The State of Israel has the means to act and will not hesitate to do so – I do not rule out the possibility that Israel will have to take action in the future in order to prevent a nuclear Iran,” Gantz said.
In a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in June, Biden said he will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.
“What I can say to you, Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch, as they say,” Biden told Rivlin during their meeting in the Oval Office.
The Biden administration has said that it wants to reenter the deal brokered by former President Barack Obama and global powers in 2015 and ditched by former President Donald Trump in 2018.
But the talks between Tehran and Washington have stalled.
Newly elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner and protege of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said he will meet with Biden to discuss the nuclear deal under the condition that the US lifts the economic sanctions.