There’s an internal debate within the Israeli government on the best way to influence the Biden administration’s Iran policy, Axios reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed Israeli officials.
The report comes as Defense Minister Benny Gantz is heading to Washington, where he will arrive Thursday and meet with US officials to discuss Iran. The Axios report said Gantz is lobbying for a quieter approach to influence the US through private meetings, while Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett favors a more public one.
In August, Bennett pledged to Biden that he would avoid the confrontational approach of his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who publicly clashed with the Obama administration when the Iran nuclear deal was negotiated in 2015. But now, it appears Bennett has decided to go back on his pledge.
Last week, Bennett spoke with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the phone. After the call, Bennett’s office released a statement that said the Israeli leader demanded that the US “immediately halt” indirect negotiations with Iran. Israeli officials said Bennett was influenced to take a confrontational approach by his hawkish foreign policy advisor, Shimrit Meir.
The negotiations between the US and Iran were put on pause at the end of last week and are now expected to resume on Thursday. The Axios report said Gantz sees the delay as an opportunity to convince the Biden administration to pursue a “plan B” on Iran that involves more sanctions.
David Barnea, the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, is also headed to Washington to speak with US officials. On Sunday, three Israeli TV channels reported that Gantz and Barnea plan to urge the Biden administration to take military action against Iran.