Ronen Bergman on the United States’ Relationship with Israel

The Trump administration’s strong support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a hallmark of its foreign policy, with a particular point of unity being their common enemy: Iran. There are reports that President Trump has asked for options for an attack against Iran, as he seeks to cement a hardline stance against the Iranian regime.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: So, look, let me ask you. Today has been billed, or these last two days, as sort of a farewell trip by the American administration to Israel, particularly Mike Pompeo, maybe a parting gift to Benjamin Netanyahu. What do you think was the biggest conversation, the most important issue that they needed to sort of sort out and settle right now at this time?

RONEN BERGMAN, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: I think it’s — it will revolve — as Benjamin Netanyahu used to say, he will always speak about three topics, Iran, Iran, and Iran. And these are the topics that are the most important ones. The U.S. — as you mentioned, the U.S. administration, the current U.S. administration, and the Netanyahu government were holding a very, very close relationship. And, in that context, they were thinking of new ways to enforce withdrawals, and disassemblement of the nuclear project on Iran. Israel, as we reported in “The New York Times,” was able to sabotage the main facility for balancing of centrifuges in the nuclear site in Natanz just during the summer. And there were other actions that were taking place. We can assume that they were discussing possible actions, possible policies. Is there still a room for the administrations to do something in the two months, less than two months that are still left, and exercise a tougher policy, much tougher than they believe the president-elect will adopt once in the Oval Office?

AMANPOUR: So, you must have been across it — I mean, it came out of “The New York Times,” and you do so much work on this issue — this idea, as it’s been reported, that President Trump had asked his officials for options to strike parts of the nuclear project in Iran, and that, apparently, he was dissuaded. Can you fill in any of those blanks?

BERGMAN: The prominent figures of both administrations during the last two years — and I think that Secretary of State Pompeo is clearly one of them, if not leading this school of thought — started to believe that there is very little hope to bring regime change, even with economic pressure, even with maximum pressure, as the former National Security Adviser Bolton phrased that. And if there is no regime change, then the only way is to coerce the current administration to — in Iran, the current government, to do what the West, what the United States and Israel wanted them to do, so to, again, take out much of their or disassemble much of their nuclear facilities and do — diminish or cancel their support to insurgencies in the Middle East.

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Hatice Cengiz; Bryan Fogel; Ronen Bergman; Patrice Cullors