Prime Minister Naftali Bennett isn’t trying to snub the US Envoy for Iran Rob Malley, who was in Israel on Monday. He just doesn’t want to send a positive message about what Malley is doing by meeting him.

If that sounds contradictory to you, well, you’re not the only one.
But sources close to Bennett insisted on pointing to protocol in response to reports of a snub. After all, the US special representative for Iran is not at the same diplomatic level as Israel’s leader; Bennett did not meet with Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo either, though he was in Israel this week.

However, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz flouted protocol and met with Malley. Plus, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not pull rank when he made sure to meet with Malley’s predecessors Elliott Abrams and Brian Hook.
But the fact that the previous Iran envoys were Hook and Abrams, staunch opponents of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and the current one is Malley, the nuclear deal’s biggest booster in the Biden administration makes all the difference. Malley’s advocacy for engagement is especially relevant at this point because indirect talks between the US and Iran are supposed to restart in two weeks.

Bennett did not want to send a message that he supports Malley’s efforts by meeting with him, and that message came through loud and clear, even if his office is unhappy with reporters using words like “snub” and “boycott.” 
“We have no desire to legitimize a process that is very, very wrong,” a senior diplomatic source said. “We really don’t want the Americans to think that Israel is comfortable with what is happening. We’re not.”
At the same time, Israel remains in constant contact with the US at the highest levels to express its discontent.
Lapid, unlike Bennett, saw a meeting with Malley as an appropriate venue to air those concerns, since he’s foreign minister and Malley is a representative of the State Department, the equivalent US agency, on a matter as important as Iran.
The foreign minister reiterated Israel’s opposition to the JCPOA and the view that Iran is using the negotiations to draw out more time as it continues to advance its nuclear program towards breakout. READ MORE

Bennett quietly expresses discontent with US overtures to Iran - analysis

Josh Toupos

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