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Biden, Netanyahu finally chat, but no details revealed on what

President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had an hour-long phone conversation on Wednesday, four weeks after Mr. Biden took office and at a time of clear disagreement over the new administration’s efforts to re-enter the country. nuclear deal with Iran.

The two countries have released official descriptions of the call which described it in the most vague terms and gave no details of the conversation, particularly on Iran. The White House statement simply said that “together the leaders discussed the importance of continuing close consultations on regional security issues, including Iran.”

This statement was remarkable because Israeli officials still often express resentment that President Barack Obama kept them in the dark about Iran’s early approaches in the run-up to the negotiations that ultimately led to the 2015 deal.

The two negotiators who conducted this secret diplomacy were Jake Sullivan, who is now Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, and William J. Burns, his candidate for the post of director of the CIA. Mr. Netanyahu actively lobbied the deal in Congress and urged President Donald J. Trump to drop it, which he did in 2018.

Mr Biden told reporters that the call with Mr Netanyahu was a “good conversation” but did not provide any details. Israeli officials feared it was so delayed and that it only happened after Biden spoke with leaders of other allies, but also with opponents like Chinese President Xi Jinping. U.S. officials said the delay didn’t matter, but officials were clearly trying to agree on a negotiating strategy with Iran before hiring Netanyahu.

The prime minister’s office described the conversation in personal terms, saying in a statement that “the two leaders noted their personal ties of many years and said they would work together to continue to strengthen the strong alliance between Israel and the United States. United States”

The White House description, on the other hand, mentioned the strength of the alliance but said nothing about the relationship between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu, as part of an effort by the new administration to de-personalize interactions between the two. two countries.

“The president affirmed his personal history of unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and expressed his intention to strengthen all aspects of the US-Israel partnership, including our strong defense cooperation,” the statement said. the White House. He reaffirmed Mr Biden’s decision to build on the Abrahamic Accords, the regional agreements that Israel has reached with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – two main Arab allies of the United States – at the end of the administration Trump.

The conversation with the two leaders took place before Mr Biden’s Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken held talks this week with Britain, Germany and France, European nations that have participated in the negotiations on Iran. But administration officials don’t seem in any rush to engage directly with the Iranians or feel constrained by the deadlines set in Tehran.

The Iranian government told the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday that from next week Tehran would no longer be bound by the “additional protocol,” an agreement with United Nations inspectors that allows for the control of undeclared nuclear facilities. Allowing these more in-depth spot inspections was a key requirement of the Iran nuclear deal.

In an interview with NPR on Tuesday, Mr Blinken made it clear that even if the United States was able to return to the deal, it would have to be the first step in a larger and more lasting deal, and not only a replica of what the Obama administration agreed to almost six years ago

“Time has passed,” said Blinken. “And so, if we’re going to get back to the deal, if Iran comes back to compliance and we do the same, we have to work on a longer and stronger deal than the original one.”

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Video: Biden to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ‘soon’

First of all let me say about Israel, I know there have been questions about when the president will speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu, which was, I think, the root of this question or how the question started. So let me first confirm to you that his first call with a leader in the region will be with Prime Minister Netanyahu. It will be soon. I don’t have an exact date for you, but it’s soon. Stay tuned. Israel is, of course, an ally. Israel is a country in which we have important strategic security relations and our team is fully engaged. And on Saudi Arabia, I would say, you know, we made it clear from the start that we were going to recalibrate our relationship. The president’s counterpart is King Salman. And I expect that when the time comes, he will have a conversation with him. I don’t have a timeline prediction on this. But I will also say that, you know, Saudi Arabia is in a position where it is defending itself against threats from the region. You know, they have critical self-defense needs. And we will continue to work with them on these issues while clarifying the areas where we have disagreements and where we have concerns. And it is certainly a change from the approach of the previous administration.

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Israel spy Jonathan Pollard receives welcome from Netanyahu hero: ‘you are home’

The jet that delivered the Pollards belonged to a casino owned by Sheldon Adelson, the Republican billionaire who is a longtime benefactor of Mr. Netanyahu, Israeli media reported. News of Mr Pollard’s arrival was canceled by editor-in-chief of Israel Hayom, a free daily that Mr Adelson has long funded to provide Mr Netanyahu with continued political support. Mr Adelson, one of the richest men in the world and a key supporter of President Trump, had long pushed for Mr Pollard’s release.

Mr. Pollard’s lawyer based in Israel, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, told Israel Hayom that there had been “a great effort to prevent the plan from arriving by American media and not to announce anything before they land.”

The Free Pollard campaign committee said in a statement that the Pollards had been moved to a temporary location for a period of quarantine, as required by Israeli coronavirus regulations, and the date of their arrival had been kept secret. “For safety reasons”. He added that the date was also chosen to allow Esther Pollard’s medical treatment to continue smoothly.

The United States Parole Board, the arm of the Department of Justice that oversees the releases of federal prisoners, decided in November not to extend the travel restrictions it placed on Mr. Pollard when he was released from federal prison five years ago.

Mr Pollard has long said he would move to Israel if he allows it.

Credit…Israel Hayom / Associated Press

After his arrest in 1985, Pollard pleaded guilty under a deal with prosecutors who agreed to seek a one-year sentence. But the judge, based on a once-classified damage assessment prepared by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, sentenced him to life in prison. Mr Pollard eventually served three decades behind bars, the longest time in prison for an American who illegally donated equipment to an allied government.

In October 1987, the CIA, with the cooperation of Mr. Pollard, began work on a damage assessment. Although a redacted version of the document has been made public, much of it remains confidential. The report found that while the Israelis did not ask for information about US military plans or some of the more sensitive matters, the “amount” of disclosures posed a risk to intelligence sources and collection methods. “The Pollard operation has few parallels among known US espionage cases,” the CIA report says.

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Biden’s victory means demotion for Netanyahu and less focus on Israel

More immediately, analysts and officials said, Israel will feel the transition to a Biden administration as a distraction from the conflict with the Palestinians. With a pandemic, a battered economy and deep societal cracks demanding his attention, Mr Biden, as he looks abroad, is expected to put more emphasis on tensions with China and Russia, climate change and repairing the frayed transatlantic alliance.

The questions concerning Iran are, however, very important. Mr. Biden spoke of showing Tehran a “way back to diplomacy” by offering to return to the Obama administration’s nuclear deal if Iran returns to strict compliance. Mr. Netanyahu cruised against the deal and applauded Mr. Trump’s withdrawal.

Contrary to Mr. Trump’s favoritism towards Israel, Mr. Biden has promised a return to a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It could mean, analysts and former officials say, that if Arab states like Morocco, Oman or Saudi Arabia express willingness to normalize their relations with Israel, a Biden administration could encourage them to insist on Israeli concessions. to the Palestinians in return.

Yet Mr. Biden has few illusions, his advisers say, that a settlement is achievable with Mr. Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, the long-serving Palestinian president still in office.

Instead, the new administration should exert a calming influence. This could mean reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem, which Mr. Trump dissolved, as a quasi-embassy for the Palestinians; reopen a Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and restore US funding for hospitals in East Jerusalem, aid projects in the West Bank and Palestinian refugees.