Another Bad Iran Deal Seems to Be on Its Way. How Should Israel React?

January 13, 2022 | Elliott Abrams
About the author: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the chairman of the Tikvah Fund.

This week, indirect talks between Washington and Tehran resumed in Vienna, and the Israeli government might soon find itself reliving the situation of 2014 and 2015: with its most important ally poised to make a dangerous agreement with its most dangerous enemy. Elliott Abrams suggests how Jerusalem might best respond:

First, let’s be clear on what constitutes the danger. It is that the United States will agree to what’s called a “less for less” agreement. . . . Instead of the “maximum pressure” campaign the Trump administration had underway, in “less for less” the United States would release certain sanctions—for example, allowing Iran to collect about $7 billion it has in frozen accounts in South Korea—if Iran made certain moves, such as halting enrichment of uranium above a low percentage and exporting the uranium it has already enriched above that percentage.

How should Israel react? First, it should do just what it is doing now: explain patiently, forcefully, and diplomatically why such an agreement is dangerous. This does not require attacks on President Biden nor any moves that would give rise to accusations of partisan intervention in U.S. politics, but Israel’s unhappiness with and disapproval of the kind of deal that is likely—if there is any agreement at all—should be very clear in public and in private.

Second, Israel should be very clear that it will not consider itself bound by such an agreement. It has said exactly that, retaining the right to act to protect itself against Iranian progress toward building a nuclear weapon regardless of the American position or any deal with Iran. This is precisely what Prime Minister Naftali Bennett did on January 10.

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