The coldness of the relationship between the president of the United States, Joe Biden, and Benjamin Netanyahu, inherited from the confrontation between the previous Israeli prime minister and the administration of the democrat Barack Obama (2009-2017), has given way to a stage of reconciliation of the new Government of Israel with the White House. “In recent years, mistakes have been made,” acknowledged on Sunday in Rome the Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, in his first meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. “We are going to amend those mistakes between both parties,” announced the main leader of the Israeli government coalition, alluding to the “damage” caused by Netanyahu in the understanding with the Democratic Party because of his all-out alliance with Republican Donald Trump. .
The nuclear agreement with Iran, Israel’s arch enemy in the Middle East, signed by Obama in 2015, suspended by Trump three years later and which Biden is now trying to reactivate, is behind the disagreements between the two strategic allies. But while Netanyahu preferred to air the disagreements from the tribunes of power and in press conferences, the broad-coalition Executive led for two weeks by Naftali Bennett and Lapid has opted for discreet negotiation, in search of an influence favorable to their interests before a foreseeable new agreement between Tehran and the great powers.
At the Rome meeting, Lapid made it clear that his country has “serious reservations” about the reissue of the nuclear pact with Iran, although he announced that they will be addressed “through direct technical talks.” This Monday, the head of State, Reuven Rivlin, was responsible for defending Israel’s thesis at the White House. President Rivlin, who concludes his mandate next week, holds an apparently formal hearing, but already anticipated before traveling from Tel Aviv that his meeting with Biden is aimed at expressing the greatest concern of his country for the eventual atomic rearmament of a a regime that openly postulates its destruction.
With much more secrecy, the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, General Aviv Kochavi, has met over the past week in Washington with officials from the Pentagon and the intelligence and security agencies to warn of the risks that It would imply, according to Israel, “capitulation” to the Iranian demand to reinstate the nuclear agreement in exchange for the lifting of all international sanctions. In essence, Israel is trying to convince the United States that it is possible to reach another kind of pact with Tehran. One of longer duration, to prevent it from being equipped with the atomic weapon within a decade, and to guarantee that its nuclear facilities are subjected to strict international inspections, as revealed in the newspaper Maariv military analyst Alon Ben David.
Same goals, different tactics
“We have the same goal [respecto a Irán], but sometimes we differ in the tactics to reach them ”, specified the Secretary of State in Rome. Blinken also reminded the Israelis of their obligations to the Palestinians, starting with the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip after last month’s military escalation, blocked because of the army’s restrictions on border crossings. The expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Yarrah district, and the Israeli management of the Esplanade of the Mosques, Islam’s third holy site, are also viewed with concern by the US. Blinken’s message has double aspect: for now, Washington is not considering promoting the resumption of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, but Israel must now improve its living conditions with “measures that guarantee dignity.”
The turn of the Democratic Administration towards Israel has been obvious. After arriving at the White House, it took Biden more than two weeks to call Netanyahu. However, Bennett was congratulated by the US president a few hours after he was inaugurated as prime minister on the 13th. The Hebrew press points out that Bennett has had other conversations with Biden, who seems willing to receive him at the White House in the next weeks. Former Minister Gilad Erdan, ambassador to Washington, appointed last year by Netanyahu, has already placed his position at the disposal of the new government.
The reconciliation between the Biden Administration and Israel after the end of Netanyahu’s era in power, however, has not ended the shadow war that the Israeli intelligence services wage against Iran, largely aimed at delaying the uranium enrichment process. Faced with the assertion by the Tehran authorities of having neutralized last week a sabotage operation against the facilities of the Atomic Agency in Karaj, west of the Iranian capital, intelligence experts have assured in the Israeli press that it was a targeted attack. to paralyze the production of centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium. The action follows in the wake of a similar operation attributed to Mossad (foreign espionage) last April against the Natanz nuclear plant (300 kilometers south of Tehran), where thousands of centrifuges operate in a secret underground bunker.