Israel’s Gantz Heads to the U.S. for Talks on Iran Nuclear Deal

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is set to travel to Washington to discuss ongoing efforts to revive a nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran that Israel strongly opposes.

Gantz will leave for “a brief trip” on Wednesday and meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, his office said in a statement. The visit comes against the backdrop of political turmoil at home as rivals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu close in on a coalition to oust the longtime leader.

A senior official in Tehran said on Tuesday that an agreement to restore the 2015 atomic accord might take as long as two months as the parties attempt to iron out differences over how to roll back Iranian enrichment advances and remove U.S. sanctions.

Netanyahu has been among the original deal’s most vocal opponents, arguing that it provides Iran a pathway to a nuclear arsenal that would pose an existential threat to Israel. He pledged on Tuesday that his country would “do everything in our power to prevent Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons.”

“If we need to choose -- and I hope it will not happen -- between friction with our great friend, the U.S., and getting rid of an existential threat, getting rid of an existential threat will prevail,” Netanyahu said.

Iran denies its nuclear program is intended to produce weapons but fears that it might develop the ability to do so drove the diplomacy leading to the 2015 pact.

Gantz is likely to discuss other security issues on his trip. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, who’s in Israel, said this week that the country would request $1 billion in U.S. military aid and help in replenishing its Iron Dome missile defense system. The shield played a key role in countering rockets fired by the Islamic militant movement Hamas during last month’s fighting.

Part of the discussions will touch ways to build on the cease-fire that ended 11 days of conflict, according to the statement from Gantz’s office.

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