Israel has serious reservations about the Iran nuclear deal being put together in Vienna, new foreign minister Yair Lapid told his American counterpart, as he pledged to fix ‘the mistakes made’ in US-Israeli relations in recent years.
In their first face-to-face meeting since Israel’s new government was sworn in two weeks ago, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Lapid had a very positive and warm discussion, according to US officials.
The main topics were the nuclear deal and Israel’s normalisation accords with Gulf Arab states, as well as humanitarian aid to Gaza and the status of East Jerusalem, a topic that helped fuel the latest wave of violence between the Israelis and Palestinians in May.
“Israel has some serious reservations about the Iran nuclear deal that is being put together in Vienna. We believe the way to discuss those disagreements is through direct and professional conversations, not in press conferences,” Lapid said, in brief remarks ahead of the meeting in Rome.
Iran and the United States have been holding indirect talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers that imposed restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting international sanctions.
Blinken told Lapid that Washington would remain in close contact with Israel over the Iran negotiations, US officials said.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a nationalist atop a cross-partisan coalition, has hewed to the opposition of his conservative predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, whose caps on projects with bomb-making potential Israel deemed too lax.
Netanyahu’s particularly close ties with Trump followed an acrimonious relationship with his predecessor Barack Obama, which some critics said had alienated Democrats and compromised US bipartisan support for Israel.
Biden, since taking office on January 20, has repeatedly expressed Washington’s support for Israel but has been more measured in his approach than Trump.
Lapid acknowledged the need for repair. “In the past few years, mistakes were made. Israel’s bipartisan standing was hurt. We will fix those mistakes together.”
Blinken also reiterated to Lapid Washington’s concerns over Israeli attempts to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and the status of the city’s al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, during the Muslim holy month of Ramzan, US officials said.
Blinken also conveyed to Lapid the necessity of getting humanitarian assistance into Gaza, where 250 Palestinians were killed and scores of buildings were destroyed last month by Israeli air strikes.
Biden has worked to repair ties with the Palestinians and abandon what they said was the one-sided US policy towards the conflict. His administration has pledged to resume hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance and work towards reopening the Palestinians’ diplomatic mission in Washington.
U.S. President Joe Biden will meet Israel’s outgoing president, Reuven Rivlin, at the White House on Monday for a broad discussion about U.S. efforts to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal and Israel’s formation of a new government.
The meeting takes place just weeks after Naftali Bennett took over as Israel’s new prime minister, replacing Benjamin Netanyahu. U.S. officials are working on setting up a meeting between Biden and Bennett in coming weeks.
Biden’s meeting with Rivlin comes amid concerns in Israel and Arab capitals about U.S. efforts to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal because of fears a resumption of the accord may eventually allow Tehran to acquire atomic weapons that would leave them vulnerable to Iranian intimidation or military threat.
U.S. attempts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, after then-President Donald Trump abandoned it in 2018, have been slow to make progress with Tehran insisting the United States lift all economic sanctions.
A source familiar with the Biden-Rivlin meeting said Biden is expected to tell Rivlin that the United States and Israel share the same objective, that Iran not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, and that Biden would stress U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
The two leaders are also expected to discuss Israel’s 11-day war with Gaza. The United States has pledged to resupply Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which got heavy usage during the Gaza conflict.
Rivlin is to leave office on July 7 after a seven-year term, with Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog taking over as Israeli president.
Rivlin is on his final foreign trip as president. He will meet officials at the United Nations in New York and congressional lawmakers in Washington.