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On DC trip, Bennett’s approach to Iran – and governing – took amorphous shape

9 22 6

Naftali Bennett’s first visit to Washington as prime minister was a fairly low-stakes affair.

He came at a time when US government and media attention were focused elsewhere, on the unfolding disaster in Afghanistan and the latest COVID-19 wave. Moreover, his goals in his first meeting with US President Joe Biden were modest: establish a personal connection, present a strategy to stop Iranian nuclear and regional ambitions, advance a visa waiver program and secure a replenishment of Iron Dome missiles.

In this subdued context, Bennett revealed the contours of both how he intends to deal with Iran and how he will lead his unwieldy coalition in general — in each case a low-key approach that hopes to be effective without rocking the boat too much.

Some might say his policy is an example of prudent, cautious statesmanship; others that he’s given up on his principles in order to secure two years as prime minister with no particular goals in mind other than remaining in power.

The major international challenge facing Bennett is the Iranian nuclear program.

After expectations that the Biden administration’s eagerness to secure a return to the 2015 deal — known formally as the JCPOA — would lead to easy negotiations with the Islamic Republic, that accord is becoming ever more elusive. Iran’s moderate then-president Hassan Rouhani introduced a number of demands to the Vienna talks that he knew the US could not accept, and his hardline successor Ebrahim Raisi will likely take an even more aggressive approach.

While Bennett’s predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu was willing to irreparably damage ties with Barack Obama’s White House and possibly with the Democratic Party in his fight against the emerging JCPOA, Bennett reportedly pledged to Biden that despite opposing an American return to the deal, he will not wage a public campaign against it.

Instead, Bennett is opting for a broad approach that looks to counter Iran beyond its nuclear program. He intends to push back on its proxies, on its maritime attacks, on its economy and on the stability of its regime.

The idea, said his advisers last week in........

© The Times of Israel

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