Israel, Arab allies ‘on same page’ against Iran ahead of Biden transition

The official in Jerusalem confirmed that there is “no formal dialogue as so far,” between the Israeli government and the Biden’s transition team.

US President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the US economy as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris stands by, Wilmington, Delaware, US, November 16, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
US President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the US economy as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris stands by, Wilmington, Delaware, US, November 16, 2020.
Israel and like-minded Arab states have a shared message ahead of US President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week: Don’t reduce the pressure on Iran.
The countries aligned with Israel on this matter are not just its new allies in the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but also include Egypt and Jordan, an official involved in the matter said on Thursday.
“Our message to Biden is that we would hope he would take into account the attitudes of Middle East allies before he went ahead and did anything with Iran,” the official said. “Many Arab states are on the same page on this issue.”
Biden has said he intends to have the US return to the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, if the Islamic Republic returns to compliance with it. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Iran deal is officially known, was meant to limit uranium enrichment such that it would extend the time it would take for Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon. At the same time, it gradually lifted international sanctions against Iran, so that by 2030 there would no longer be any.
The official denied reports that Israel is seeking to have changes made to the JCPOA so that it would address the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program and its malign actions in the region and beyond.
“We are not in favor of tweaking the JCPOA,” the official said. “There can be no return to the JCPOA; that would be a historic mistake.”
ABOUT TWO weeks ago, a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office similarly said that “Israel is unequivocal that under no circumstances should there be a return to that bad deal.” The remark came in response to an AFP article with the headline: “Israel open to German efforts to expand Iran nuclear deal with more restrictions.”
The Trump administration left the Iran deal in 2018 and has since enacted a “maximum pressure” sanctions regime.
The Israeli official said Jerusalem’s position is to maintain pressure on the Tehran.
“History has proven that the only time Iran will make concessions is when it’s under pressure,” the official said. “Reducing pressure and giving up leverage would be a historical mistake.”
The official also pushed back against the European argument that Iranian violations over the last two and a half years, such as last week’s announcement that it would ramp uranium enrichment up to 20%, show that the US leaving the Iran deal was dangerous and that it should return.
“That’s ignoring the important fact that the JCPOA left Iran with capabilities that they could make a political decision and be back on the path to a weapon,” the source said. The increase in enrichment came after a parliamentary vote.
The Iran deal “didn’t remove their capability to develop nuclear bombs. The 20% enrichment is proof that the JCPOA is not effective,” he added.
In addition, the influx of funds to Tehran following the 2015 deal “gave the regime all the money to beef up aggression in the region,” the official said.
Countries across the Arab world agree with this strong stance on Iran, which has helped bring them closer to Israel, the official said, citing recent remarks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to that effect.
“They are very receptive to these ideas,” he said.
THOUGH BIDEN has said he seeks to have the US return to the Iran deal, Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, who is set to become ambassador in Washington as well in the coming weeks, pointed out that the president-elect and his aides “set a number of conditions,” and that the US and Israel share the goal of stopping Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.
The best way to block the Iranian nuclear threat is something Israel and the Biden administration will address in “discussions in closed rooms and not in the media,” the ambassador said in an interview with KAN radio.
Erdan called on the UN Security Council to immediately reimpose an arms and missile embargo on Iran, in a letter he sent the council on Thursday. The previous UN arms embargo on the mullahs’ regime expired last October under the terms of the JCPOA.
The letter listed Iran’s “rogue activities... including the transfer of weapons to terrorist organizations, systematic violations of the nuclear agreement and its repeated calls for Israel’s destruction.”
Erdan also mentioned the Iranian parliament’s resolution calling for Israel’s destruction by the year 2041.
“It is no secret that Iran has become the largest proliferator of ballistic and other missile technologies to Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Gaza, delivering these capabilities into the hands of non-state and terrorist actors and destabilizing the region,” Erdan wrote.
THE AMBASSADOR told KAN that he hasn’t met with the Biden team yet, since the president-elect and his aides have a policy of not meeting with any foreign government officials before the inauguration next week.
The official in Jerusalem confirmed that there is “no formal dialogue so far,” between the Israeli government and Biden’s transition team.
“At this stage, the incoming president is still not meeting with other governments,” Erdan said. “I am preparing in other ways. I have many meetings with members of Congress, including Democrats, to gauge the mood. On central issues, there is no doubt that we will find the common denominator with the incoming administration.”
Among those common positions are Biden’s support for the Abraham Accords and the wish to have more Arab and Muslim states establish diplomatic ties with Israel.
“We are certain we will know how to work with [Biden] and will do so by looking at shared values and interests between Israel and the US,” Erdan said.
Also on Thursday, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz participated in a video conference with his counterparts from Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE – the countries that have normalized ties with Israel in recent months – as well as Egypt and the US.
Steinitz called the meeting a “historic milestone,” and an example of “leveraging energy to advance cooperation and dialogue with Arab states.
“There is no doubt that the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in Cairo that I initiated two and a half years ago” – with Egyptian Energy Minister Tarek al-Mulla – “is now paving the way for more cooperation on renewable energy, research and development, and the possibility to connect electric grids in the near future,” he said.