After five months without contacts for the return of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the talks that ended in Vienna without any result are scheduled to resume next Monday. Still far from reaching an agreement, Israel is convinced that, despite a possible understanding, Iran's nuclear weapons development will not slow down, and that within the next five years they will have at least one atomic bomb in their arsenal, so they claim to have the right to protect themselves against what they see as a matter of time.
Israel has never been keen to be part of a nuclear deal with Tehran. The only times it has shown a modicum of willingness to engage has been by demanding more restrictive measures than those reflected in the agreement signed in 2015. However, the latest statements by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leave no room for any kind of agreement: "In any case, even if there is a return to an agreement, Israel, of course, is not a party to the agreement, and Israel is not bound by that agreement".
Bennet himself said that "the Iranians have surrounded the state of Israel with missiles while they sit safely in Tehran". The prime minister's position is not at all disruptive compared to the rest of Israel's policymakers. Tel Aviv sees Iran as a danger that is difficult to control and that, whether or not a compromise is reached, it is clear that the country headed by Ebrahim Raisi will not respect the agreement. Israel's Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman assured that "with or without an agreement, Iran will be a nuclear state and will have a nuclear weapon within five years, at the most".
Since the US unilaterally abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) under President Donald Trump in 2018, Iran's violation of restrictions has been a constant. In response, US sanctions have followed one after another, without preventing the Iranians from not only continuing to enrich uranium, but doing so at a much higher level of purity than allowed by the JCPOA. So far, according to the latest UN reports, they have reached a purity level of 60%, 16 times higher than that permitted in the 2015 nuclear agreement.
This uranium enrichment is another of the factors that the Israeli prime minister referred to in his statements, saying that "their (Iran's) enrichment machinery is bigger and more sophisticated than ever". He also sharply criticised the Raisi executive, accusing them of being "a regime that cannot give water to its citizens. (...) A regime with a weak economy and a corrupt government that leads with strength and fear". Moreover, it says that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's country is currently "at its most extreme point since 1979".
The talks that begin next Monday must be very different from those that ended five months ago in Vienna if an agreement is to be reached. The reality is that Tehran's willingness to return to an agreement is minimal. To do so, they demand the removal of all sanctions imposed on them after the US left. However, the Biden administration, despite having among its priority objectives the resumption of the nuclear deal, is calling for a halt to uranium enrichment and a return to the JCPOA restrictions, before even considering sanctions relief.
The demands of both sides have stalled negotiations on multiple - so far all - occasions when they have met. Nevertheless, there are powers that, while disagreeing with Israel's rigid position, are suspicious - not without reason - of the Raisi side's intentions. "If these discussions are a farce, we will have to consider the JCPOA without substance," said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Next week's talks are therefore essential for the future of the nuclear deal and, above all, for the credibility of negotiations that are increasingly being called into question.