President Biden and Israeli counterpart Naftali Bennett discussed the nuclear talks with Iran and the Russia-Ukraine crisis during a phone conversation Sunday, the Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Why it matters: The call came as the nuclear talks have entered a crucial crunch period. The Israeli government remains concerned about a possible deal in Vienna that it believes will be even less effective than it viewed the 2015 nuclear agreement.
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Worth noting: This is the first conversation between Biden and Bennett in more than three months. The last time they spoke was during the climate summit in Glasgow when they briefly met during the leaders reception.
Driving the news: Bennett congratulated Biden for the raid that killed top ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi last week, according to the readout from the PM’s office.
“The two leaders discussed regional challenges, first and foremost the Iranian growing aggression and the steps for blocking Iran’s nuclear program,” Bennett’s office said.
The White House has not yet released a readout of the call.
What they are saying: Earlier on Sunday at the top of a cabinet meeting, Bennett said a nuclear deal with Iran, according to terms that are being discussed in Vienna, will damage Israel’s ability to deal with Tehran’s nuclear program.
“Whoever thinks that an agreement will increase stability — is mistaken. It will temporarily delay enrichment but all of us in the region will pay a heavy, disproportionate price for it,” Bennett said.
The Israeli prime minister claimed that in recent weeks, as the negotiations have continued, Iran has increased its aggression in the region. “This is how you conduct negotiations, Tehran-style,” Bennett said.
Bennett stressed that Israel is reinforcing its military option against Iran and will maintain freedom of action with or without an agreement between Iran and other world powers.
Behind the scenes: Bennett’s national security adviser, Eyal Hulata, told the cabinet on Sunday that Israel was preparing for a scenario where there is a new nuclear deal that doesn’t serve its interest and for a scenario where there is no deal and Iran’s nuclear program continues with no restraints, according to four ministers who attended the meeting.
What’s next: Bennett invited Biden for a visit in Israel, the prime minister’s office said.
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