Ha'aretz: Reut warns Israel must initiate talks with US on Iran

Reut Institute position paper that calls for Israel to initiate talks with the United States, to avoid the possibility that Washington and Tehran may conclude a "package deal" excluding Israel, has recently grabbed the attention of senior ministerial officials.

By Barak Ravid, Ha'aretz:

A position paper that calls for Israel to initiate talks with the United States, to avoid the possibility that Washington and Tehran may conclude a "package deal" excluding Israel, has recently grabbed the attention of senior ministerial officials.

Prepared by the Reut Institute, the document warns of the possibility that an agreement between the United States and Iran may allow the latter to retain some of its nuclear capabilities - particularly the ability to enrich uranium - and thus present Israel with a "strategic surprise."

As such, "Israel must consider raising the matter of a deal with Iran in its talks wifth the United States ... The more Israel offers creative alternatives to blocking Iran's nuclear ambitions, the greater the chances that the United States will include it in its decision-making."

Reut is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute, established three years ago to focus on issues of national security, especially negotiations with the Palestinians. The institute works closely with the government, but its work is independent, and its position papers are distributed to senior figures in the Prime Minister's Bureau, the National Security Council, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces.

In recent days the institute disseminated a document entitled "A Libya scenario in Iran - the United States goes it alone." According to it, Israel must prepare for the possibility that the United States will try to resolve the Iranian nuclear question by reaching an accommodation with Tehran, which will not include Israel. In such an event, the document notes, Israel must ensure that "the essential interests of the State of Israel are preserved."

The document has stirred a great deal of interest among officials at the Defense and Foreign Ministries, and also at the National Security Council, a senior political source said.

The document points out that Israel assumes that its interests and those of the United States on the Iranian nuclear question are identical, and that complete transparency exists between the two allies on the relevant political and military levels. However, the Reut analysts warn that the overlap between Washington and Jerusalem is not absolute at this time, and they point to Iraq as topping the American agenda as well as concerns of further deterioration in the Gulf.

The Reut researchers also point to a lessening likelihood of American military action against Iran, and growing support for dialogue with Tehran.

A third option may emerge, the document warns - between striking Iran during the Bush tenure and putting the matter off until his successor comes to office - of direct negotiations between Washington and Tehran.

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