Senior Israeli delegation arrives in Washington amid Iran tension

A high-level Israeli delegation is expected to hold meetings at the Pentagon and the White House.

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On Monday, a senior Israeli delegation arrived in Washington for discussions on matters including opposition to the US’ return to the Iran nuclear deal and recent attacks on Iranian targets, which have been blamed on Israel.

The delegation includes Mossad chief Yosef Cohen, head of military intelligence Tamir Hayman, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israeli media reported. The Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, Aviv Kochavi, did not join the delegation after a recent increase in tension between Hamas and Israel.

More than 40 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel in the past two days and could draw the Israeli military into an operation.

The visiting delegation is expected to meet US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and senior US military and intelligence officials, a diplomatic source held.

The head of US Central Command, Gen Kenneth McKenzie, will also meet the Israeli team. In January, the Pentagon moved Israel into CENTCOM’s area of command. But the primary goal is to lodge Israel’s objections to the US returning to the nuclear deal with Iran, Israeli reports say.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has been in indirect talks with Iran in Vienna to enable a return to the 2015 deal, from which former president Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. This would mean sanctions relief for Tehran in return for its compliance with the deal.

One Israeli official told a news agency that the delegation would say a return to the deal is dangerous for the region and the US should not negotiate.

But, the Biden administration has given no indication that it will change its policies because of Israel’s objections. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said the White House would not be swayed.

Psaki said the indirect negotiations between the US and Iran were continuing in a bid to find “a potential diplomatic path” for a return to the JCPOA. She further said the US remained encouraged by the talks.

“As it relates to Israel, we have kept them notified as a key partner of these discussions and of our intentions, and we will continue to do that on any future visits,” Psaki said.

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