Israeli Security Official Heads to U.S. in Bid to Influence Iran Nuke Deal

On Sunday, Israel's National Security Adviser Dr. Eyal Hulata presented the government with the NSC’s annual assessment, warning that the U.S. may return to the nuclear deal and Israel must prepare for every possibility

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Hulata, left, with Bennett, center, at a meeting in the Knesset last month.
Hulata, left, with Bennett, center, at a meeting in the Knesset last month.Credit: Noam Moskowitz
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

National Security Advisor Dr. Eyal Hulata will depart Monday night for a meeting in the United States with his counterpart Jake Sullivan ahead of the resumption of negotiations in Vienna between Iran and the major powers on the nuclear deal.

“We will continue the deep and close dialogue between Israel and the United States in general, and on the Iranian issue in particular,” Hulata said. “I speak with Jake frequently, by phone and video chat, and once in a while we also need to meet face to face. It is important to emphasize – we do not see eye to eye with the Americans on every issue, but the coordination is deep, important and strategic and we are working on it,” Hulata said.

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The National Security Council completed its annual general assessment, which Hulata presented to the government on Sunday. The Iranian issue and the talks about Tehran’s possible return to the nuclear deal were the central topics. “We anticipate a year of turning points,” Hulata said on Monday in a talk with diplomatic correspondents. “Whether or not the U.S. returns to the nuclear deal, 2022 is going to be a year in which the circumstances require us to operate differently than we have operated until now, and we must be prepared. There is a risk that they return to the nuclear deal and the U.S. loses the tools that could have enabled it to impose a stronger and more long-term deal on Iran. It’s a possibility. We must be ready for every scenario, whether they return to the deal or not.”

“It’s a tectonic shift in our approach and objective,” one diplomatic official said. “Until now, the focus on Iran was only about the nuclear program. We inherited a huge void because there was no ‘plan B.’ Hundreds of millions of shekels have been allocated to close the intelligence and operational gap, and we are quickly closing it,” he said.

“Seventy percent of Israel’s problems originate with Iran,” the official continued. “Iran finances 100 percent of the budgets for Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, and 20 percent of Hamas’ budget. Over the last 30 years, they have surrounded us with all these groups to trouble us. Their goal is to make our life here short, bitter and difficult. They seek to disturb us and they have succeeded. We played into their hands. We’ve been fighting for years against the Iranian-financed proxies.”

Bennett meeting with Jake Sullivan in Jersualem in December.Credit: Haim Tzach

“It’s convenient (for them) that we have been fighting over the country’s borders, preoccupied with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah over the last decade, paralyzed and not doing anything about the root of the problems, while they’re sitting pretty a thousand kilometers away,” the official said. “We are amid a lengthy, persistent and multidimensional campaign to weaken Iran. First of all on an economic level, through a range of actions: economic, diplomatic, overt and covert, in cyber and other areas. Our goal is to disrupt their domestic policy, so they’ll be busy with troubles at home. That will weaken them and leave them with less money and energy. It’s an ongoing battle, it’s not something that will happen in one year or two.”

In the briefing with reporters, the Hulata said that his meeting with Sullivan will also address deepening the Abraham Accords and promoting similar moves with Egypt and Jordan. Hulata said that he had been instructed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to discuss tactics for addressing crime in the Arab community, climate change and methods of handling fires, earthquakes and natural disasters.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Bennett hinted at a possible warming of relations between Israel and Turkey. Bennett said there was a possibility of President Israel Herzog visiting Ankara. “Everything, of course, is being done in coordination [with Turkish officials]. At the moment, things are moving slowly, one step at a time.”

A diplomatic source also commented on the possibility of warmer relations and said, “In today’s Middle East, you have to play on the whole field because there is no regional policeman. There is a great expectation that Israel will step up amid the vacuum. The players in the arena know that we are an anchor of stability. With Turkey we move forward with great caution. Very slowly. They are no great friends of Iran, to put it mildly, and we can’t afford to assume some mantle of purity that will prevent us from creating alliances.”

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