Israel sees “no value” in returning to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a senior official said on Monday, ahead of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to Washington, where he is set to meet U.S. President Joe Biden and other top officials.
“Iran is currently at the most advanced point of its nuclear program, at least in terms of enrichment,” the official said in a briefing to reporters. “The rate of enrichment since May 2018 is concerning,” he added. That was when former President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement meant to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
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Iran has produced uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent for the first time, as well as having significantly increased its production capacity of uranium enriched up to 60 percent, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported last week.
Bennett is set to leave for Washington on Tuesday, alongside senior defense officials and national security advisers. On Wednesday, the prime minister will meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
In his Thursday meeting with President Biden – the two leaders’ first since both assumed office, Bennett plans to present a plan developed by his government to restrain Iran. "I'm telling President Biden the time has come to stop Iran, not to throw them a lifeline in the form of a nuclear deal, that has already expired," Bennett told a cabinet meeting on Sunday.
Israeli officials expect Biden and Bennet to also discuss Americas' recent withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as the Palestinian issue and reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.
Talks with Palestinians 'not on the table'
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The official said a part of the visit’s purpose was to convey “a new message from Israel,” stressing the importance of the U.S.-Israel bond for “both sides of American politics.” He added that the White House also sees the visit as important, even amid Biden’s "intensive handling” of the fallout of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The two leaders are also expected to discuss the Trump-brokered normalization deals between Israel and several Arab states. “We would like to see progress on some other important states,” the senior official said. “You can assume we’re working on that.”
The official also said that “negotiations with the Palestinians are not on the table, and it’s important to understand that,” arguing any breakthrough isn’t feasible in the current state of affairs. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas “don’t get along with each other, and don’t get along with us,” he said. “There’s no point in dealing with something that isn’t feasible at all.”
Earlier this month, Israel gave initial approval to advance construction of 863 housing units in Palestinian villages in Area C of the West Bank for the first time in years, in what government officials have seen as a "calculated risk" vis-à-vis the Biden administration. "It was clear for Bennett he would not have been able to advance this move after his meeting with Biden at the end of the month, so as not to damage their relations, and that's why he had to announce it as early as he did," a political source said.