Today Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon became the most prominent Israeli official to embrace the idea of direct negotiations between the U.S. and Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
But now Ayalon spoke more directly when commenting on President Obama’s re-election, saying to Israeli press, “Obama, certainly in the short term, will be much more effective, because he already has a formulated policy. There could be direct negotiations with Iran.”
In October, the New York Times first reported that the administration had agreed “in principle” to direct negotiations with Iran after the election. Almost immediately, both the administration and Iranian officials denied the existence of any agreement. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., said “we do not think Iran should be rewarded with direct talks.” Ayalon’s comment today may suggest a different line of thinking in the Israeli government and comes on the same day that Mohammad Javad Larijani, an influential Iranian official, said it is “not taboo” to have direct negotiations with the U.S.
Several former high-level Israel intelligence officials, like Efraim Halevy, have welcomed the idea of direct negotiations as well. Halevy, speaking to Al-Monitor, said a few weeks ago:
“I realized that dialogue with an enemy is essential. There is nothing to lose. Although the claim was, if you talk to them, you legitimize them. But by not talking to them, you don’t de-legitimate them. So this convinced me, that we all have been very superficial in dealing with our enemies. Not everything you try succeeds. But you have to be willing to try.”
Others, like Amos Yadlin, a former high-level intelligence official in Israel, spoke positively of direct negotiations. Yadlin, in a paper co-written with Avner Golov, said of direct negotiations:
“This degree of backpedalling, a complete U-turn from its official policy, is indicative of the effectiveness of the pressure exerted on Iran, and a signal of its capacity to bring about real change in the country’s policy.”
Yadlin and Golov added that “If the negotiations fail, the argument that all other options have been exhausted will be stronger, and there’s no way to prevent Iran’s nuclearization except a military strike.”