© Reuters. Mnuchin and Netanyahu condemn the violence in the US Capitol.
By Dan Williams (NYSE 🙂 JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel is reviewing military options for a possible clash with Iran, an Israeli newspaper reported Thursday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government prepares for differences with the incoming administration of United States on Iranian nuclear policy. US President Donald Trump delighted Netanyahu by renouncing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposing sanctions that had been lifted in exchange for limits on activities that could potentially produce nuclear weapons in the future. Tehran responded by violating many of those restrictions. President-elect Joe Biden wants to rejoin the deal if Tehran, which denies looking for the bomb, strictly complies again. Israel, alarmed by Iranian rhetoric that it is a state that should not exist, is wary of the softer line, even though Trump’s threats of US military action did not limit Iran’s nuclear moves. A front page article in Israel’s largest newspaper said the army is working out three options to “undermine Iran’s nuclear efforts or, if necessary, counter Iranian aggression, which will soon be presented to the government.” The newspaper, Israel Hayom, did not cite any sources. But he went on to quote Defense Minister Benny Gantz as saying, “Israel needs to have a military option on the table.” Israel has long had plans to counter Iran. The article seemed designed to indicate that they were now being updated. During the previous Democratic administration of Barack Obama, which championed diplomacy with Iran, Israel occasionally threatened pre-emptive airstrikes on Iranian nuclear sites. Some American officials at the time doubted that Israel, whose advanced military includes a reputed nuclear arsenal, could effectively attack Iranian targets that are distant, dispersed and well defended. Israeli officials have expressed their hope that Biden will continue Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran, which involves tough sanctions, until the Iranian nuclear program is dismantled. But one of them, Finance Minister Israel Katz, acknowledged on Army Radio: “There are disputes (with Biden) regarding the perspective on Iran and, of course, that will be a challenge.” Katz seemed encouraged by Biden’s intention to include Iran’s ballistic missile program in any renegotiation of the nuclear deal. Biden’s choice as US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, signaled the opening, during a January 3 CNN interview, to consulting “regional players,” a possible allusion to Israel. Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Ynet TV that the Netanyahu government was not yet in a formal dialogue with the incoming administration. But when asked if Israel was trying through informal channels to influence Biden on Iran, Cohen said: “Yes. There are efforts.”