TEL AVIV (Axios): Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is for-ming an interagency team to prepare a strategy for engaging the Biden administration on the Iran nuclear file, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office tell me.
He’s also considering appointing a special envoy for talks with Biden over the Iran nuclear deal.
Flashback: Last week, I disclosed a letter in which Netanyahu had demanded full control of Israel’s Iran policy ahead of Biden’s inauguration, leading Def-ense Minister Benny Gantz to reply that the matter was not simply Netanyahu’s “personal business.”
The state of play: Netan-yahu appears to be settling on a hybrid approach: forming an interagency team, but also potentially appointing an envoy to negotiate on his behalf.
One name that’s been raised for the envoy role is Mossad director Yossi Coh-en. Cohen is in Washington this week but hasn’t reque-sted meetings with Biden’s team, Israeli officials say.
Another possibility is the outgoing ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, who has a frosty relationship with Biden’s team but is Netanyahu’s closest adviser.
Other options could include Yaakov Amidror or Yaakov Nagel, both former national security advisers to Netanyahu.
The big picture: The Biden and Netanyahu administrations could be on course for an early clash over the Iran nuclear deal.
Biden intends to return to the deal if Iran returns to compliance, and then he’ll seek to negotiate a broader deal. Netanyahu contends that would be a “big mistake.” Netanyahu’s aides have been grumbling that Biden will be surrounded by “Obama people” — including the deal’s architects and some of its fiercest advocates.
“If we just go back to the JCPOA, what will happen and may already be happening is that many other countries in the Middle East will rush to arm themselves with nuclear weap-ons. That is a nightmare, and that is folly. It should not happen,” Netanyahu said last Thursday when he met Treasury Secretary Ste-ven Mnuchin in Jerusalem. (Axios)