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Israeli and US national security advisors hold first phone-call

What happened: Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat spoke with his American counterpart, Jake Sullivan on Saturday night and congratulated him on taking office. The pair agreed to discuss soon many topics on the agenda including Iran, regional issues and advancing the Abraham Accords.

  • This was the first official communication the Israeli government had with the new US administration.
  • At yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and said he expects to work with them “to strengthen the strong alliance between Israel and the US even more and expand the circle of peace between Israel and the Arab world for a real new Middle East and, of course, to deal with our shared challenges, foremost of which is the Iranian threat”.
  • Israel officially opened its embassy in Abu Dhabi yesterday. The mission will be led by Eitan Na’eh, who has served in the past as deputy ambassador in London.
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi said: “The opening of the mission will enable the expansion of bilateral ties between Israel and the UAE, and the full and quick implementation of the potential inherent in our relations.”
  • Ashkenazi also welcomed the Emirati government’s decision today to open an embassy in Tel Aviv “that will facilitate the promotion of the warm ties between our countries and peoples”.
  • The Israeli cabinet approved Israel’s normalisation agreement with Morocco in a unanimous vote. Netanyahu called the agreement “a historic moment after four peace agreements with four Muslim and Arab states in four months” and praised King Mohammed VI.
  • Defence Minister Benny Gantz also congratulated King Mohammed VI “for his bold leadership,” adding: “We need to keep working with the Biden administration to expand and establish normalisation and to respond to the Iranian threat.”
  • Regarding Iran, according to Channel 12 News the head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, is set to meet with US President Joe Biden next month, where he will present Israel’s latest intelligence on the Iranian threat.

Context: Cohen is expected to also brief senior US defence officials, including the newly appointed CIA chief David Cohen.

  • According to the report, he will lay out Israeli demands that should be included in any renegotiation with Iran:
    • Stopping Iran’s uranium enrichment.
    • Stopping their production and testing of advanced centrifuges.
    • Preventing their support for proxy terror groups in the region, primarily Hezbollah.
    • Stopping Iranian entrenchment in Iraq, Turkey and Yemen.
    • Ending Iran’s terror activity worldwide against Israeli targets.
    • Allowing full access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to all Iranian nuclear sites.
  • In addition, there is a consensus among the Israeli security establishment that the “sunset clause,” must be extended. According to the current JCPOA nuclear agreement, as early as 2025 the restrictions will be lifted on the Iranian nuclear programme, enabling them the capability to produce enough fissile material for nuclear weapons.
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu is waiting for his first phone conversation with President Biden to understand whether he intends to return to compliance with the JCPOA as a starting point for renegotiating the agreement, or whether he is open to formulating a new and improved nuclear agreement whilst keeping sanction intact.
  • There is a consensus among Israel and the Gulf states that the US should use the sanctions imposed by President Trump as leverage over Iran to improve the terms of the JCPOA.
  • The agreement with Morocco voted on yesterday called for “the establishment of full diplomatic, peaceful and friendly relations is in the common interest of both countries and will advance the cause of peace in the region, improve regional security and unlock new opportunities for the whole region.” It also grants “authorisation for direct flights,” between the countries.

Looking ahead:  The agreement with Morocco will now go to the Knesset for a vote and then back to the government for final ratification.

  • In the days ahead Israel will also open a Liaison Office in Rabat and Consulate General of Israel in Dubai.

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