The US is determined to reach an informal deal to stop Iran from advancing toward a nuclear breakout, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
Netanyahu said in the meeting that took place behind closed doors that there is little chance Washington will change its mind about such a deal and that they are waiting for Tehran’s answer.
Meanwhile, President Isaac Herzog is expected to visit Washington next month to speak before both houses of Congress and meet with US President Joe Biden in the White House.
Expected US-Iran deal to see Tehran curb nuclear enrichment
The expected US-Iran deal, which the sides have negotiated in recent weeks via Oman, would entail Tehran curbing its nuclear enrichment at 60% in exchange for US waiving sanctions, specifically allowing Iraq to pay over $10 billion it owes Iran for gas and electricity and for South Korea to pay $7b, for oil imports.
A prisoner exchange may also be part of the agreement; Tehran has held Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi hostage since 2016.
“Our stance is clear: No agreement with Iran will oblige Israel,” Netanyahu said ahead of the confidential committee meeting. “Israel will continue to do everything to defend itself.”
"Our stance is clear: No agreement with Iran will oblige Israel."Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal still stands, Netanyahu said, adding a veiled reference to the likely new deal: “We still have different views and we do not hide them, even about small agreements. We make our stance clear, in closed rooms and open ones.”
Netanyahu characterized the deal as a “mini-deal” or an “understanding,” rather than a formal agreement that would be put in writing.
Diplomatic sources posited that while the Biden administration realized it cannot keep the president’s campaign promise to return to the 2015 Iran Deal, it sought to put the Iran issue to rest at least until the 2024 presidential election.
The informality of the deal is likely an attempt by the Biden administration to avoid Congressional review in line with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). The law requires the president to notify Congress within five days of any agreement with Iran relating to its nuclear program and transmit any related materials for a 30-day review period. It also requires the president to “determine the agreement in no way compromises the commitment of the United States to Israel’s security, nor its support for Israel’s right to exist.”
Netanyahu told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “over 90% of [Israel’s] security problems come from Iran and its proxies.”
The Iranian threat is not just about its nuclear program; its development of ballistic missiles requires Israel’s attention, the prime minister added.
Sanctions on Iran’s missiles expire in October of this year. The Islamic Republic had openly violated the ban, exporting long-range drones to Russia for use against Ukraine.
As for the Abraham Accords, Netanyahu said: “We are acting to stop Iran with one hand and acting to expand the circle of peace with the other.”
The more Israel makes peace with the Arab world, the less hope its enemies will have that the Jewish state will disappear or can be defeated, he stated.
Netanyahu said that relations with the US are excellent and that he is in constant contact with the Biden administration.
However, Netanyahu has yet to receive an invitation to the White House, which Biden hinted earlier this year is due to the prime minister’s pursuit of judicial reforms.
Herzog has not yet been formally invited to meet with Biden, either, but he is scheduled to address Congress next month, and protocol dictates that he would meet with the president, as well.
US State Department: Reports of interim Iran deal 'competely false'
US State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller on Tuesday dismissed reports of an interim Iran deal, stating “that is completely false.”
"There are a number of reports we have seen by various outlets about different deals and purported deals, the vast majority of those reports have been wrong or completely misleading.”
Miller would not confirm the existence of talks between Washington and Tehran but said that the US “has always had the ability to deliver messages to Iran when it's in the interest of the US to do so.”
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.