Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has been appointed to the US State Department’s Iran policy team, and will be tasked with engaging with Israel on the matter, a source familiar with the matter confirmed Monday.
Shapiro will report to US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley and will split his time between Washington and Jerusalem, according to Axios, which broke the story on Sunday.
Shapiro began working last week, and advised White House officials before US President Joe Biden hosted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for talks on Thursday, Axios said.
The news site said that Malley recruited Shapiro as part of an effort to include a broad range of opinions on the issue of Iran. Shapiro publicly supported the 2015 nuclear deal, but is seen to hold more hawkish views on the subject than others in the administration who are more committed to the deal.
The appointment comes as talks have stalled on restoring the 2015 deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Former president Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord in 2018, with the firm backing of Israel’s then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bennett pledged to Biden during their Friday meeting that, despite opposing a potential Washington move to rejoin the deal, he will not wage a public campaign against a possible American return to the accord, a senior Israeli official said.
Bennett and Biden were able to set “rules of the game” for how their offices work during their terms, an Israeli official told reporters on Friday after the meeting.
Bennett’s government opposes US efforts to return to the Iran nuclear agreement, signed in 2015 by the administration led by Barack Obama.
But Bennett has said that he believes dialogue will lead to a better outcome, and that the White House was very appreciative of his stance on the matter, officials on both sides told The Times of Israel. Many current administration officials also served under Obama when he clashed with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the deal.
Netanyahu, now the opposition leader, lobbied against the deal in a 2015 speech to the US Congress, infuriating Obama, and continues to vociferously oppose a return to the accord, which he argues paves the way to an Iranian nuclear arsenal.
Biden’s administration has been seeking a return to the nuclear deal, but it has looked increasingly unlikely, as Iran has moved further away from its obligations and after a hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, took office in Tehran.