image Photo: Reuters

Israeli NSA, US discuss Iran

Israeli National Security Advisor Dr. Eyal Hulata held talks with his American counterpart Jake Sullivan  in Washington.

 By Erin Viner

According to a transcript released by the White House, the meeting followed up on President Joe Biden’s “fruitful conversation” with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on 24 April. That conversation centered on efforts to de-escalate recent tensions in Jerusalem where Palestinian rioters have clashed with Israeli security forces during observance of the Muslim month of Ramadan.

The two National Security Advisors (NSA) discussed “a range of regional and global security issues,” said the statement, during which “Mr. Sullivan emphasized that the United States is attuned to Israel’s concerns about threats to its security, including first-and-foremost from Iran and Iranian-backed proxies.”

Israel is surrounded by terror groups funded and sometimes working in conjunction with the Islamic Republic. The powerful Hezbollah organization is based in Lebanon but has also deployed to neighboring Syria to fight on behalf of Iran’s ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his civil war against insurgents. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has also stationed forces and transported weapons convoys to both Lebanon and Syria, which are located just over Israel’s northern frontier. The Palestinian Islamist-Hamas rulers of Gaza, which is adjacent to Israel’s southern border, also boast of Iranian support.

Dr. Haluta and Mr. Sullivan also “committed to continue their close coordination on the range of security issues of importance to both the United States and Israel, and they look forward to President Biden’s visit to Israel in the coming months,” said the White House.

The White House said that additional topics for discussion included agreement to “further enhance the ongoing coordination through the US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group and strengthen security and diplomatic cooperation wherever possible with other regional partners,” as well as Israel’s relationships with key Indo-Pacific countries, Russia’s war on Ukraine and the need to continue supporting “our Ukrainian partners.”

The talks come amid stalled attempts between Iran and world powers in Vienna to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The negotiations were suspended last month over the unresolved issue of whether the United States might remove the IRGC from its blacklist of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, as demanded by Tehran.

Washington and Tehran have been engaged in indirect talks for more than a year to salvage the pact, which restricted Iranian nuclear development in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and re-imposed punitive economic measures against Tehran, after which the Islamic Republic blatantly breached the deal’s limits on its atomic program.

Israel, which the Islamic Republic refuses to recognize, says it will not accept Iran becoming “a nuclear threshold state.” Israeli leaders have repeatedly warned that Jerusalem will not be bound by any nuclear deal with Iran and could eventually take unilateral action against its nuclear sites.

In statements during a televised speech earlier this month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi threatened that if Israel makes “the slightest move against our nation, our armed forces will target the heart of the Zionist regime.”

Tehran has long accused Jerusalem of several attacks on facilities linked to the program and killing Iranian nuclear scientists. Israel has neither denied nor confirmed the allegations.

In related developments, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan stated that, “Iran, the Member State openly threatening Israel with annihilation, will have enough uranium for a nuclear bomb in weeks.”

He went on to question, “How is it possible that the body tasked with global security does not dedicate the majority of this debate on the Middle East to the Iranian nuclear threat? Shouldn’t prevent radical Islamists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction a top priority of this Council? Try to imagine what the Middle East will look like when Iran terror proxies can operate under a nuclear umbrella.”

Ambassador Erdan made the statements ahead of a UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting on the latest developments related to the Middle East, which historically focuses on the Israel-Palestinian conflict rather than other regional threats.

Lambasting the absurdity of the repetitive session, the Israeli envoy delivered a scathing indictment of the world body.

“The focus of the debate this morning will sadly be on the lies fabricated by terror organizations regarding the situation in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount, and not on the real critical threats to the Middle East. The threats as you know – namely Iran and its dangerous nuclear program, or its proxies like Hezbollah – destabilize the region. On the Temple Mount, violence is incited and perpetrated only by a mob of Palestinian terrorists trying to hijack the holy site and inflame Jerusalem. This chaos and violence endanger Muslim worshipers and threatens Jews praying at the Western Wall. As a result, Israeli police had to intervene, showing exemplary restraint, police protected the right to worship and succeeded in restoring law and order.”

Ambassador Erdan criticized the UNSC for promoting a single narrative to placate its members at the expense of genuine facts on the ground.

“International bodies made far-fetched calls for calm from both sides. From both sides? Who are these sides? On the one side we have the mobs of blood-thirsty terrorists calling to murder Jews, carrying weapons into their place of worship. Throwing firebombs and rocks from Mosque windows and shooting firecrackers from within their holy sites,” he said, pointing out that, “On the other side, we have a law-abiding democracy that ensures freedom of worship for all, is committed to protecting holy sites and shows respect and restraint before using minimal force only when necessary to protect others. And calls are made for calm for both sides? How detached from reality has the international community become? Terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have spun a web of lies absurdly pointing the finger of blame at Israel for the violent riots that they themselves organized and carried out. If this narrative of lies is spread the violent acts of terror will only escalate.”

Stressing that, “The truth couldn’t be more clear” due to “photos and video footage showing exactly who is to blame for the violence” that is “accessible to all, Ambassador Erdan said his request to present that evidence to the UNSC was denied. “You all know that a picture is worth a thousand words and a video from a reliable source is worth a million words. Just like the ostrich, many have buried their heads in the ground. Why bother with the facts and the truth when you can just blame Israel or make a false moral comparison between a vibrant democracy and terror organizations. Well, I refuse to let falsehoods to dominate the narrative.”  

The narrative of which Ambassador Erdan spoke refers to Palestinian demands that all lands captured from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War are ‘illegally occupied’ by Israel, as the Palestinian Authority (PA) rejects any Israeli claims of sovereignty over Jerusalem and the so-called West Bank territories.

Palestinian Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour reiterated that view  by insisting Jerusalem police officers ensuring the peace on the Temple Mount have no right to enter the ancient compound, saying “Why are the occupation forces there in the first place? This is what Israel hopes you will forget that East Jerusalem is occupied and unlawfully annexed in breach of the UN Charter. Israel has no rightful claim or sovereignty over any part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Israel has no authority over the Haram al-Sharif (Arabic reference for Temple Mount) while the historic and legal status quo must be upheld, and the authority of the Islamic Waqf and the custodianship of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan must be respected.”

For his part, UN Special Coordinator for the Mideast Peace Process Tor Wennesland voiced regret over the recent spate of violence.

“Sadly, this period has been marked by violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and terror attacks in Israel, which have killed and injured scores of civilians. In Jerusalem, the situation remains relatively calm despite inflammatory rhetoric and violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli Security Forces that have taken place at the Holy Sites. In Gaza, the launching of rockets is undermining the fragile stability that has prevailed since last May,” he said.