Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, Robert Malley, in a Monday meeting that Israel believes Tehran's willingness to revive nuclear talks is a ploy to buy time in order to develop a nuclear weapon.
Malley also met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, but not Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. One official said Bennett would not meet Biden's envoy due to Israeli opposition to U.S. efforts to resume negotiations with Tehran, which Malley supports. Another official argued that Malley is not senior enough to meet with a prime minister during his visit.
As part of his Middle Eastern tour, Malley is also visiting the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in advance of a new round of talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.
In these visits, Malley “will coordinate [U.S.] approaches on a broad range of concerns with Iran, including its destabilizing activities in the region and the upcoming seventh round of talks on a mutual return to full compliance with the JCPOA,” the U.S. State Department said, referring to the international nuclear pact.
Also on Monday, Lapid met with U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who recently expressed support for renewing the nuclear agreement with Tehran. Ahead of the meeting, the foreign minister announced that "the American ambassador to the UN is a true friend of Israel's, who fights with us shoulder-to-shoulder in one of the most complicated arenas in the international community."
Thomas-Greenfield told Lapid she was "delighted to be here," adding: "I spoke to President Biden on Friday, and he was very, very supportive of the trip and of all of the issues that we will be discussing, and very strong in reaffirming our long and very strong commitment to Israel."
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Bennett also met with Thomas-Greenfield on Monday, noting that he hopes the ambassador's visit gave her "a better picture of the unique challenges that we’re facing here, with Iranian backed terror groups across our borders."
Thomas-Greenfield also toured Israel's Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center, expressing that she was "deeply moved" by the visit.
Earlier on Monday, President Isaac Herzog also met with Thomas-Greenfield. They discussed "regional and strategic" questions and collaborating on innovative technologies to tackle the climate crisis. Herzog also thanked Thomas-Greenfield for supporting Israel at the UN, including during Israel's fighting with Hamas in May. Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, also attended the meeting.
The Biden administration recently announced its intention to hold a seventh round of negotiations aimed at a possible return to the 2015 international nuclear agreement, to be held in Vienna on November 29. The talks follow President Donald Trump’s announcement in 2018 of an American withdrawal from the pact.