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Trump’s happy talk on Iran sets off alarm bells in Israel

2019-08-27

President Donald Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in March. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

President Trump sounded like he’s got the whole Iran thing under control on Monday. That’s the last thing Israel wants to hear.

Israelis worry that Trump will blunder into a meeting with Iran’s leaders that could lead to a new flawed nuclear deal with Tehran — or even a full-blown love affair with the Islamic republic.

Kind of like North Korea, only with the ayatollahs.

“Convinced that he is the grand master of the art of the deal, Trump could swiftly come to an agreement with the Iranians that may sound preferable to him, but in reality will be much worse,” journalist Anshel Pfeffer wrote in Haaretz, a prominent Israeli newspaper.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his closest allies have not spoken openly about Trump’s apparent new willingness to sit down soon with Iran’s leaders.

Israel considers Tehran to be perhaps its biggest enemy and it strongly opposes any detente with Iran.

So Trump stirred a major hornet’s nest when he waxed poetic about Iran’s “tremendous potential” in a press conference at the G7 summit in France.

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The 2019 G7 Summit

He also touted a possible nuclear deal with Tehran that would include curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for financial concessions from the West. That sounds pretty similar to the 2015 nuclear deal that Netanyahu and his right-wing allies considered a historic sell-out by President Barack Obama.

And no one has to remind Israel that Trump was threatening nuclear war against North Korea until Kim Jong-un sweet-talked him into thinking he is the president’s BFF.

The on-the-record silence may signal that Netanyahu & Co. are working back channels to get Trump to get back in line. It didn’t hurt that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also poured cold water Tuesday on the idea of sitting down with Trump.

Things are complicated by the fact that Netanyahu is facing a tricky national election in less than a month’s time, and he is running as Trump’s closest ally.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak slammed the Trump move as a “red light” for Israel and slammed Netanyahu for being a prisoner of “Trump’s moods.”