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Bennett is aiming for ‘no surprises, no daylight’ with the Biden administration

President Reuven Rivlin is expected to meet with Bennett and Secretary of Defense Benny Gantz in the coming days to discuss issues on the agenda for his visit to the White House next week. Among the goals of the trip will be to return to the basic agreement that the United States and Israel must coordinate and update each other, a source close to the prime minister said on Monday.

“We are not on board with any agreement with Iran,” the source said as the sixth round of indirect negotiations between Washington and Tehran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal ended. “But we can influence it and influence what happens if Iran violates the agreement – if we are part of the conversation.”


Israel not only wants its national security concerns taken into account, but that it suggests it “has a lot to bring to the table in terms of expertise and intelligence that helps U.S. interests,” the source added.

Bennett will look closely at Rivlin’s journey to the White House and see it as an indicator of how he and his views will be accepted in Washington.

Bennett and Rivlin have key elements in common, a source close to the prime minister explained. They are both against a two-state solution, but are in favor of humanitarian steps on the ground to improve relations between Israel and the Palestinians. They come from the right wing, but have tried to take a statesman position and be accepted by the right and left wing.

THE BIDEN administration invited Rivlin to Washington as early as March this year, and the leaders of the Democratic and Republican election rallies even asked him to speak for both congressional districts, although it is not currently on the agenda for next week’s visit. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated this invitation during his visit to Israel last month.

Sources in Jerusalem have said that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped Rivlin’s visit. Biden administration officials expressed frustration with Bennett and his staff that the presidential visit was blocked even before he officially became prime minister.

Bennett sees the Biden administration’s persistence in bringing Rivlin to Washington in his last days as a good sign in light of the fact that President-elect Isaac Herzog’s views, especially on a two-state solution, are more in line with US President Joe Biden’s.

The Prime Minister and his advisers plan to keep an eye on how Rivlin is welcomed, the level of delegation, and with whom the Israeli president meets.

Bennett’s administration is trying to emphasize that its main focus in relation to the United States is not the Palestinians. Iran is the priority; other security issues as well as economic and technological ties would come for the Palestinians.

“Rivlin can convey to Biden and anyone else relevant that we are on board to reduce the conflict, but not push ourselves too much on the issue,” the source said close to Bennett. “We are not sweeping the Palestinians under the rug, but we have a different approach. We want to focus on win-win, things that we can all benefit from, instead of taking previous positions that did nothing for the Palestinians, the Israelis or the Americans. ”

AN EXAMPLE of a “win-win” is the vaccine exchange agreement currently being negotiated for the Palestinian Authority to administer Israeli COVID-19 vaccine doses, which expire in the coming weeks to its residents, and for its expected vaccine delivery in September or October to go to Israel instead.

Another is that the IDF is dropping its policy of entering private Palestinian homes for intelligence gathering purposes.

In his new role as opposition leader, Netanyahu accused the new government of surrendering to US demands under the Iran deal, citing a reading of a call between Blinken and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Friday, who said they agreed not to to surprise each other.

Netanyahu said Biden and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had issued the same request to him when he was in office, and he rejected it.

“This is an incredible Israeli commitment that is hurting the heart of our national security,” Netanyahu said. “If Begin had accepted a ‘no surprises’ policy, we would not have destroyed the nuclear reactor in Iraq,” he said.

“For 15 years as Israeli Prime Minister, I have been asked by our American friends to make this commitment many times, and I always refused,” Netanyahu said. “Sometimes I updated them prior to the operations we intended to perform, and many times I did not update them.

“But I have never ever agreed to tell them about all our operations because it would invite pressure not to carry them out or leaks to the press that would prevent the operation and remove our freedom to act against Iran on existential issues.”

Netanyahu said his response was that he would take their requests into account, but in matters related to Israel’s existence, it must maintain full freedom to act without the need to report in advance.

“I can not think of a weaker and more dazzling message to our enemies in Iran,” he said. “I can not think of a better gift for the ‘executioner from Tehran.’ From now on, he and his friends in the regime know that they can sleep quietly without surprises. ”

FORMER FOREIGN Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who also serves under Netanyahu when he was prime minister, said in a briefing with Israeli ambassadors to Asia in March that he and Blinken agreed that they would not surprise each other in matters relating to negotiations about returning to Iran part.

Netanyahu has often said that his open disagreement with former US President Barack Obama over Iran was a key to Israel’s ties to the Gulf states.

But the former prime minister did not always have such a negative view of a “no surprises” policy. Contrary to the opposition leader’s claims, former US Ambassador Michael Oren, in his book Ally, documented concerns from Israel under Netanyahu’s leadership that Obama sought greater “daylight” – meaning less coordination and therefore more surprises – with Israel.

“Historically, this principle [of daylight] applied to the alliance as a whole, ”Oren wrote. “Contrary to what it sounds, daylight was bad, and darkness – that is, the absence of open disagreement about politics – [was] optimally … By illuminating the gaps in their political positions, the administration cast shadows over Israel’s deterrent power. ”

Netanyahu’s critics responded that the policy of not surprising the United States has been intact before, during and after Netanyahu’s tenure, but never applied to covert military and intelligence operations – and would not now.

Gantz responded to Netanyahu by saying that what is really dangerous for Israel is that he continues to leak the content of his talks with the President of the United States. He said he, as defense minister, would see to it that “Israel maintains its right to defend itself against any threat and anywhere.”

Lapid replied that Netanyahu’s allegations were inaccurate, adding sarcastically that he “appreciates the opposition leader’s advice,” but he is no longer responsible.

The source close to Bennett said: “When you speak like Netanyahu, the United States surprises Israel, and that is exactly what happened last time. [in 2015] where the Iran deal was signed behind Israel’s back. It was not in Israel’s national security interest.

“A responsible opposition leader who puts land over politics should express the concerns he has directly with the prime minister, instead of convening a press conference,” he said, “and not politicize the relationship with our main ally.”

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