During his first trip to the White House as prime minister, Israel's recently installed PM Naftali Bennet pressed Biden on abandoning ongoing attempts to restore the JCPOA nuclear deal through talks in Vienna, which have remained stalled of late.
Biden in his introductory welcome remarks made in the Oval office while alongside Bennett, said, "We're also going to discuss the threat from Iran and our commitment to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon." And then he appeared to make the kind of 'threat' towards Tehran that the Israeli leader no doubt welcomed: "If diplomacy fails, we're ready to turn to other options," Biden said.
Certainly US-led sanctions on Tehran have by all accounts been essentially maxed-out at this point, leaving many observers to conclude that Biden was clearly hinting at a military option. Bennett himself had earlier in the week told The New York Times that Israel is willing to do anything it takes to thwart Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons (despite Iran's leaders long claiming they are not pursuing nukes, but instead a peaceful domestic nuclear energy program).
Bennett had days ago specifically threatened that "clandestine attacks" will continue, and that Tel Aviv will continue to punish Tehran via "gray area" activities - a reference to hidden sabotage and espionage.
During Friday's nearly one hour meeting with Biden, Bennett said, "Obviously, the main issue we’re going to be talking about today here is Iran’s right to a nuclear weapon." And he turned to President Biden saying, I was happy to hear your clear words that Iran will never be able to acquire a nuclear weapon and that you emphasize that they’ll try the diplomatic route." And then he agreed: "But there’s other options if that doesn’t work out."
"These very days illustrate what the world would look like if a radical Islamic regime acquired a nuclear weapon, that that marriage would be a nuclear nightmare for the entire world,” Bennett added, in reference to the recent deadly attack in Kabul.
"Iran is the world’s number one exporter of terror, instability and human rights violations. And as we sit here right now, the Iranians are spinning their centrifuges… We got to stop it," Bennett continued.
US President Joe Biden and Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett finished their first meeting in Washington. The meeting lasted 50min, it was supposed to last 25min pic.twitter.com/Foa1zhR1A1— Anna Ahronheim (@AAhronheim) August 27, 2021
Interestingly, Bennett also sought to assure Biden that Israel will defend itself without calls for US intervention: "That’s our job. We will never outsource our security," he said. However, it's long been known that Israeli has spent years behind the scenes (previously under Netanyahu) lobbying for greater Washington military action against Iran, especially in places like Iraq and Syria.
"But we do thank you for the tools and the back you’ve been giving us and you’re giving us," Bennett added, likely referencing the billions in foreign and military aid the US gives Israel each year.
Likely Biden telegraphed his indirect 'threat' of the US being ready for "other options" as further leverage to ensure a more compliant Iran during indirect negotiations with Washington in Vienna. However, Israel has recently shown its threats to be more direct and literal, given they've of late followed through with covert sabotage operations, such as the spate of sabotage incidents and assassinations in 2020.
And this is how the meeting concluded...
NOW - Biden laughs, takes no questions on Afghanistan from the press.pic.twitter.com/ARWLmRaql8— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) August 27, 2021