PM Nafatli Bennett
PM Nafatli BennettYonatan Sindel/Flash90

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told CIA Director Bill Burns in a meeting on Wednesday that the US and Israel should start working on a joint strategy for a scenario in which Iran elects not to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, Israeli officials told Barak Ravid of Axios Thursday.

The issue was the focus of Burns’ talks in Israel with Bennett, President Isaac Herzog, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Mossad director David Barnea.

Israeli officials viewed the meeting as part of the preparations for Bennett's meeting with President Biden, which is planned for later this month in Washington.

During the meeting, according to Axios, Bennett presented Burns with his assessment of, and policy toward, Iran. Israeli officials said their impression was that Burns was also skeptical about whether Iran was ready to return to full compliance with the deal.

“It was important for the Prime Minister to make it clear that when we say we think it is a mistake to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, it is not an automatic continuation of the Netanyahu government’s policy and that we have a different approach," a senior Israeli official told Ravid.

Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to former Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018, but has been holding indirect talks with the Biden administration on a return to the agreement.

However, Iran recently paused the talks and announced they will not resume before the new government takes office.

The new government is headed by hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, who was sworn in as president of Iran last week and vowed to bring an end to US sanctions on the Islamic Republic, denouncing the sanctions as “illegal”.

The Israeli intelligence community, foreign ministry and other national security agencies think the likelihood of Iran deciding to return to the deal has waned in recent weeks after the election of Raisi, according to Ravid.

The Israeli government is concerned that the US and other Western powers won't push back hard as Iran moves ahead with its nuclear program.