Secretary of State Antony Blinken's Mideast trip where he first met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday was supposed to focus on maintaining the Israel-Gaza truce and finding a lasting solution toward preventing a future flair up of violence.
However, an emboldened Netanyahu bluntly shared his thoughts on the impending restoration of the Iran nuclear deal while standing next to Blinken during the press conference that followed their meeting. As expected Netanyahu urged the US to stay away from the deal, forcing Blinken to quickly contradict the Israeli leader, leading to an awkward exchange among the close allies. It took a mere 90 seconds for Netanyahu to run through a few vague commitments related to the Gaza ceasefire before he turned to trashing the JCPOA nuclear deal as leaving the Jewish state open to possible annihilation by Iranian nukes...
"I can tell you that I hope that the United States will not go back to the old JCPOA because we believe that that deal paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy," Netanyahu asserted.
"We also reiterated that whatever happens, Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself against a regime committed to our destruction, committed to getting the weapons of mass destruction for that end," the Israeli prime minister added.
On the eve before meeting with Blinken, Netanyahu had told a meeting with top Mossad officers that he won't hesitate to take "courageous, independent" action should Israel assess that Iran is close to getting the bomb.
The Times of Israel details:
Speaking to Mossad officers this evening at an awards ceremony just hours before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to arrive in the region for talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggests Israel may take an "independent" tack on Iran.
"I appreciate our friend the United States very much. It has stood by us for many years," Netanyahu says. "That’s a vital part of our national security."
"But," he adds, "there could come a situation where our principal goal — to ensure the ayatollahs don’t end the millennia-long existence of the Jewish people — demands that we make courageous and independent decisions. The State of Israel won’t allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons."
However, Blinken confirmed the US is still moving ahead undeterred with attempts to restore the nuclear deal with Iran, at a moment the fifth and final round of talks in Vienna progress this week, which resumed Tuesday.
Blinken said: "We’ll continue to strengthen all aspects of our longstanding partnership. And that includes consulting closely with Israel, as we did today, on the ongoing negotiations in Vienna around a potential return to the Iran nuclear agreement, at the same time as we continue to work together to counter Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region."
Blinken's itinerary which began Tuesday will not only include Jerusalem, but also Ramallah, Cairo and Amman - and through Thursday he plans to hold additional meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.