Report: Bennett-Blinken Talk ‘Long and Tough’

YERUSHALAYIM -
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Willard Hotel in Washington in August, 2021. (Avi Ohayon / GPO/File)

Relations between the U.S. and Israel have become strained over differences as to how to deal with Iran at the Vienna talks to renew the 2015 nuclear agreement, according to Channel 12 on Thursday night.

The report, citing unnamed sources, said that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s call earlier in the day with Secretary of State Antony Blinken was “long and tough,” as Israel continued to press Washington to take a harder line, not to lift sanctions without firm constraints on Tehran’s nuclear program.

This gave a different impression from a comment by Blinken that he’d had “a very good” talk with Bennett, and that “we have exactly the same strategic objectives.”

Channel 12 described what amounts to “something of a crisis” in the bilateral alliance over the Iranian issue.

A statement by Mossad chief David Barnea on Thursday night, declaring that a “bad deal” with Tehran would be intolerable and that the Mossad will never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, also seemed to indicate that the U.S. and Israel are on divergent paths.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, set to fly to Washington in the coming days, also reiterated that Israel will take whatever actions necessary to stop Iran.

During his talk with Blinken, Bennett referred to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that was issued during the talks, according to which Iran has started the process of enriching uranium to the level of 20% purity with advanced centrifuges at its Fordow underground facility. The Prime Minister added that Iran was carrying out “nuclear blackmail” as a negotiation tactic and that this must be met with an immediate cessation of negotiations and by concrete steps taken by the major powers.

The two also discussed dealing with the Omicron variant, restocking the Iron Dome and the construction at Atarot.