Netanyahu, in front of Blinken, says US should stay away from Iran nuclear deal

Blinken: The US fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks

U.S. Secretary of State is greeted by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem as talks begin with Israeli, Palestinian leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the United States should avoid rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, one of President Biden’s campaign promises. 

“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 said, referencing the acronym for the nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“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. 

Netanyahu made the comments in a joint press event with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the wake of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that brought an end to 11 days of violence in Israel and Gaza. The fighting presented a major early test for the Biden administration’s foreign policy as it balanced supporting the U.S. ally Israel’s right to defend itself and harsh criticism of Israel from domestic Democrats like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. 

After the fighting ended, Blinken announced he would travel to the Middle East to meet with his counterparts in Israel and others in the area, including Palestinians. 

“Following up on our quiet, intensive diplomacy to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, I have asked my Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, to travel to the Middle East this week,” Biden said in a statement Monday. “During his trip, Secretary Blinken will meet with Israeli leaders about our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security. He will continue our Administration’s efforts to rebuild ties to, and support for, the Palestinian people and leaders, after years of neglect.”

Blinken made good on Biden’s promise that he would reaffirm the United States’ support for Israel. But he also said the U.S. will still pursue Biden’s goal of returning to the Iran nuclear deal, which was negotiated by former President Obama while Biden was the American vice president. 

“We had a detailed discussion about Israel’s security needs, including replenishing Iron Dome,” 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.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs, Monday, May 24, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Blinken said Tuesday that the United States will continue its effort to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal over Israeli objections. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

Tuesday’s press conference continues the tense diplomatic dance between the U.S. and Israel in recent days. Biden and his administration have aimed to continue the traditional alliance while also seeming to shift the U.S. away from reflexive support of Israel, as many far-left Democrats have advocated. 

This was apparent during the fighting between Israel and Hamas – which left 200-plus dead, mainly in Gaza. Biden simultaneously called for a cease-fire, which some Republicans in the U.S. said amounted to Hamas propaganda, while blocking U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for a cease-fire, which would have been a stern international rebuke to Israel. 

Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, said on “Fox News Sunday” this weekend that despite accusations from some American Democrats that Israel is an “Apartheid” state that commits “war crimes,” the vast majority of Americans still support Israel, including Democrats. 

Regev also said he believes pounding Israeli air strikes during the 11 days of fighting this month could make Hamas reluctant to resume its attacks on the Jewish state – the terrorist group fired thousands of rockets at Israel during the hostilities. 

“Ultimately, in the operation we gave Hamas a heavy blow,” he said. “We dismantled a large part of their terrorist-military machine. We took out part of their leadership. We hit their command and control. Hopefully they will think twice even three times before they strike at Israel again.”

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