Defense Minister to also discuss Iron Dome replenishment and certain defense acquisitions facing delays.
By Yaakov Lappin, JNS.org
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is expected to underline the stalling tactics utilized by Iran in nuclear negotiations in Vienna during his official visit to the United States, which begins on Thursday, and point out that the Islamic Republic is enjoying reduced sanctions enforcement and nuclear-program advancement at the same time.
Iran’s decision to continue to build advanced uranium centrifuges, which accelerate the enrichment process, and to begin enriching uranium to the 20 percent level at its Fordow facility, as well as to 60 percent at Natanz, have set off warning bells in Israel.
The fact that Iran is taking advantage of slow negotiations, dragging them out as it makes nuclear progress, will be the No. 1 agenda that Gantz will focus on in the United States.
Currently, no solution appears in sight as Iran reaches the most advanced stage in its nuclear program to date. Even the Biden administration’s attempt to return to the 2015 nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—has so far stalled, and there is no sign of international community pressure on Iran to cease its nuclear activities as the talks wear on.
This status quo represents the worst of all scenarios in that there is no pressure on Iran—the only diplomatic game in town is to get it to return to the former deal, whose sunset clauses will expire in the coming years. And while sanctions on Iran have not been lifted, their level of enforcement is clearly waning.
China has signed oil-procurement deals with Iran that it was not willing to do in 2020 for fear of U.S. sanctions, a clear sign that Beijing is feeling more empowered.
In this twilight zone, Iran enjoys the benefits.
Second on the list will be the schedule for implementing the Iron Dome interceptor replenishment program, which recently won the support and financial commitment of the U.S. House of Representatives to the tune of $1 billion.
On securing weapons systems, expanding Abraham Accords
Israel also has several defense acquisitions that it wishes to speed up in light of regional developments, such as earlier-than-planned delivery of Boeing KC-46 refueling aircraft, additional fighter jets—either the fourth squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth jets or a squadron of Boeing F-15Ex jets.
Other systems, like air-to-ground munitions, could also be on the agenda.
It appears as if some of these weapons systems, which Israel had hoped to fast-track, are, in fact, only slowly being processed, so Gantz will be keen to work with Washington to see how to move the schedule forward.
In October 2020, Gantz appeared to have reached an understanding about bringing deliveries forward by securing U.S. loans to pay for systems that have already been authorized for sale to Israel.
During that visit, Gantz and the then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed an important declaration ensuring America’s strategic commitment to safeguarding Israel’s Quality Military Edge in the years ahead.
Israel has also green-lighted the acquisition of 12 Lockheed Martin-made advanced Ch-53K transport helicopters, beginning a helicopter modernization program that has been years overdue.
The third topic on Gantz’s agenda will be the Abraham Accords and normalization with a growing number of pragmatic Arab Sunni states.
This trend forms a key pillar in the regional push to counteract Iran’s hegemonic drive; related discussions will likely include ways to expand the accords.
On Thursday, Gantz will meet with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, as well as with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the U.S. State Department.
On Friday, he is scheduled to deliver remarks at the Israeli-America Council’s National Summit in Miami, to be held from Dec. 9 to Dec. 11.