Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was expected to meet with the Biden administration’s special envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, on Monday.

Malley is heading a U.S. delegation on a regional trip that will also include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, ahead of fresh talks with Iran later this month in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

During his two-day visit, Malley will also meet with senior officials from the National Security Council, Foreign Ministry, and the intelligence community. However, he will not be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“Bennett isn’t boycotting Malley. He believes that returning to the [negotiating] table isn’t the right thing to do,” said a source close to the prime minister.

According to another senior Israeli official, Malley is also not senior enough to be meeting with a prime minister or president.

The two sides will also discuss the possibility of a scenario in which a deal cannot be reached.

In recent months, the Biden administration has become increasingly aware that the odds of reaching a nuclear deal with Iran are not high, and that Tehran’s goal has been to buy more time for its nuclear program.

At the same time, Israeli officials are still working to persuade the United States to expedite a harsher stance and Israel intends to “propose several ideas” in the case a deal with Iran fails to materialize, which is what the sides are expected to focus over the next two days. Israeli officials have repeatedly stressed that Israel reserves the right to defend itself against Iran independently if it feels pressed to do so.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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