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US may buy Israeli silence on Iran in exchange for Saudi peace

Such a deal might see Tehran promise to halt nuclear enrichment.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 9, 2010. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 9, 2010. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

The U.S. seeks to silence Israeli opposition to a revived Iran nuclear deal by offering to broker a Saudi-Israeli normalization deal in exchange, Israel Hayom reported on Thursday.

Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi flew Wednesday to Washington for meetings with U.S. officials about the possible Iran deal, which Israel strongly opposes, and Saudi-Israel relations, which Israel strongly supports.

Although U.S. President Joe Biden once referred to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as “dead” on the sidelines of a Nov. 4, 2022, mid-term election rally, recent reports suggest his administration is still working towards some kind of agreement.

White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk visited Oman on May 8 to discuss with officials there the possibility of reaching out to Iran regarding its nuclear program, Axios reported.

While the U.S. still hopes to resolve the Iran issue through diplomatic means, a military response to Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear bombs has never been taken off the table. Hoping to stave off an Israeli military response to Iran’s growing nuclear capability (Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in early May that Iran has enriched enough nuclear material for five bombs), the White House would throw its weight behind a Saudi-Israel deal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed strong interest in such an agreement, telling JNS prior to the last election that “the big prize is peace with Saudi Arabia, which I intend to achieve if I go back into office.”

Former political officials conjecture that the Prime Minister’s Office would lean towards accepting the White House offer, Israel Hayom reported.

However, an official in Netanyahu’s office told the newspaper that “Israel has not changed its position…. Israel acts in every possible way, in all channels and at all levels, against any attempt to allow Iran to reach nuclear capabilities and nuclear weapons.”

Danny Citrinowicz, a research fellow in the Iran Program of the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, told Israel Hayom that there is little Israel can do to stop the U.S. from making a limited deal with Iran, which could involve Iran agreeing to stop nuclear enrichment in exchange for a “certain easing of sanctions and the resulting infusion of funds into the Iranian economy.”

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