By Herb Keinon, JPost—
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will suggest “concrete ideas” to US President Donald Trump during their meeting in New York on Monday to either change or scrap the Iranian nuclear deal, sources in the Prime Minister’s entourage said on Sunday.
The meeting comes amid a debate in Washington over whether the US should walk away from the deal and what ramifications that move would create.
Last Thursday, Trump renewed an exemption to sanctions on Iran, keeping the deal alive. But next month he will have to decide whether to re-certify the deal by informing Congress whether Iran is living up to its terms. Trump has already re-certified the agreement twice. According to US law, this process needs to be repeated every 90 days.
As arguments continued in Washington – over whether the US should scuttle the deal, and what that would mean for US ties with its allies, and if Iran has the ability to rush development of full nuclear capacity – Netanyahu stressed in Argentina last week that Israel’s position was that the deal needed to be changed or scrapped.
Up until now, Netanyahu has refrained from saying exactly how he feels the deal could be realistically altered, or what the ramifications of doing away with it altogether would be, ideas which he is expected to present to Trump.
Netanyahu’s meeting – his third with the US president since Trump took office in January – comes at a critical time. Trump told reporters last Thursday that he will roll out his policy on Iran in October.
“But I will say this, the Iran idea is one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen, certainly at a minimum the spirit of the deal is just atrociously kept,” he said aboard Air Force One.
“But the Iran deal is not a fair deal to this country. It’s a deal that should have never been made. And you’ll see what we’re doing in a couple of weeks.”
Netanyahu huddled with his top advisers – including National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, Foreign policy adviser Jonathan Schachter and Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer – in his Manhattan hotel room on Sunday, to prepare for the meeting with Trump and his address to the United Nations on the following day.
In both the meeting and the speech, Netanyahu will reiterate Israel’s ardent opposition to any arrangement after the civil war in Syria ends that would enable Iran to create a permanent presence there.
Netanyahu told reporters accompanying him on Friday that Israel will “not tolerate Iranian consolidating its presence on our northern border.”
Such a development, he said, “endangers not only us, it also endangers our Arab neighbors, and we are committed to act against it.” In an apparent allusion to a reported Israeli attack on a sensitive Syrian military installation earlier this month, Netanyahu added that he thinks Israel’s statements on this matter “are taken seriously, as they should be.”
Netanyahu is expected to address this issue as well when he addresses the UN on Tuesday. During that speech, which is expected to be shorter than usual, Netanyahu is also expected to directly address Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
The Palestinian issue will also be discussed when Netanyahu meets Trump, as the US president is expected to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas the next day. One issue on the agenda is the significance of the recent moves toward a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, the likelihood of those moves bearing fruit, and how this might impact the diplomatic process.
No trilateral Netanyhau- Trump-Abbas meeting has been announced and none is expected.
Netanyahu is scheduled to address the UN on the General Assembly’s first day.
Because he has to fly back to Israel just hours after the speech in order to return before Rosh Hashana, his opportunities to meet other world leaders on the sideline of the UN meeting will be rather limited.
Nevertheless, after meeting Trump, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet on Monday with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, as his outreach to Latin America continues; with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he has developed a strong working relationship; and with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is one of Israel’s strongest allies in Africa and was in Jerusalem in July.
Netanyahu was scheduled to meet Sunday evening with representatives of leading US Jewish organizations. That meeting has been closed to the press and is expected to deal in large part with the controversy over the government’s scraping the deal to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall.
One lay leader of a prominent US Jewish organization said that the government does not duly understand the anger which some key elements of the American Jewish community feel about this issue.