Israel urges visiting US lawmakers to oppose reviving Iran-nuclear deal

Leaders of Israel’s new government told a visiting bipartisan congressional delegation they oppose President Biden and the United States re-entering the Iran-nuclear deal, according to participant Rep. Nicole Malliotakis.

The Staten Island Republican congresswoman said new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Ministry officials said repeatedly in meetings in Jerusalem that they are “very opposed to the United States re-entering the Iran deal” — at least without substantial changes.

“The new Israeli leadership has grave concerns about the Iran deal and they reflected that numerous times,” Malliotakis said.

New Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s position mirrors that of his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce opponent of the Iran accord.

A bipartisan delegation of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, headed by Chairman Greg Meeks (D-NY), participated in the five-day Mideast trip last week that included visits to Israel, the West Bank and Qatar.

It was the first major House foreign congressional trip since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis added Israel has "grave concerns" over the Iran Deal.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis added Israel has “grave concerns” over the Iran Deal.

The anti-nuke agreement with Iran was approved by former President Barack Obama in 2015 but abandoned by his successor, then-President Donald Trump.

Biden is considering reviving the agreement to prevent Iran from developing the capability for nuclear weapons, but critics in Israel and the US claim the Islamic Republic will never abide by the terms and say current economic sanctions are the best way to isolate the country.

Malliotakis said Israel has strengthened its ties with some surrounding Arab countries through the Trump-inspired Abraham Accords and is hoping to expand normalization of relations with other Muslim countries, including Oman and Indonesia.

The delegation also visited Qatar, an ally where a major US military base is located.

Qatar officials are involved in trying to broker peace between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban as US troops depart. Malliotakis said Tuesday the discussion was sobering amid reports that Taliban fighters had executed Afghan soldiers.

“They were not optimistic about the two sides reaching some sort of peace deal,” she said.

President Joe Biden speaks at Sportrock Climbing Centers, Friday, May 28, 2021, in Alexandria, Va.
President Biden has thought about reviving the nuclear deal that was scrapped by former President Trump.
Evan Vucci/AP

They also met with Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.

House members pressed officials there on why Palestinian Authority hasn’t held elections since 2006.

Malliotakis said Palestinian Authority leaders described Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip, as a “terrorist organization.”

Amid partisan bickering in D.C., Malliotakis lauded chairman Meeks and the bipartisan tone of the trip.

“We weren’t Republicans. We weren’t Democrats. We were Americans,” she said.

Meeks, in a statement released Tuesday upon return from the Middle East, said, “I made certain our first delegation abroad was bipartisan, demonstrating that politics must never interfere in the diplomacy and national security of the United States.”

“In Israel we were able to form promising relationships with the new leaders of Israel’s governing coalition, helping emphasize the importance of bipartisanship in the US-Israel relationship. We analyzed Israel’s security needs and had honest and transparent discussions about steps that can be taken to improve lives in Israel, and in the West Bank and Gaza.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., speaks during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 19, 2021.
Malliotakis said Israel is hoping to have normalized relations with both Oman and Indonesia.
Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times via AP, Pool

“We discussed the importance of maintaining an emphasis on the conditions necessary to achieve a two-state solution which we believe is in the best interests of the United States, Israel, and the Palestinian people. In a speech at the United States Embassy in Jerusalem I had the opportunity to stand with Prime Minister Bennett and reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our two countries.”

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