Herzi Halevi, Mark Milley and Yoav Gallant
Herzi Halevi, Mark Milley and Yoav GallantSivan Shachor/GPO

The Biden administration is concerned that Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear sites without notifying Washington ahead of time, according to Ynet’s military analyst, Ron Ben-Yishai.

In a column he published on Sunday, Ben-Yishai wrote that the concerns brought the US to send to Israel, at short notice, the two most senior figures in the Pentagon - the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense - for clarification and coordination talks with senior officials of the Israeli defense establishment and with the senior political figures in Jerusalem.

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, landed in Israel on Friday and met with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Thursday of this week.

The reason for the visits, according to a senior member of Israel's defense establishment who was quoted in Ben-Yishai’s column, is that the White House and the Pentagon fear that the current Israeli government will surprise the United States by striking Iran and dragging Washington into a military conflict in the Middle East, while the United States and its allies are investing most of their resources in the Ukraine war and in the escalation of the "cold" conflict with China.

From an American point of view, noted Ben-Yishai, the situation now is similar to the one that prevailed between 2010 and 2012, when Barack Obama was President of the United States, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak planned to attack Iran.

The visits of the US officials follow the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) discovery of uranium enriched to 84% purity at the underground plant in Fordow.

Ben-Yishai noted that the element of time is the critical element that has gone wrong in the Israeli-American "security work plan", which was designed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, as a result of the IAEA revelation.

If, until now, Jerusalem and Washington estimated that Israel has more than a year to complete preparations for a major attack in Iran and a war in other arenas that will develop in its wake, the assessment in Israel now is that the timetable will be significantly reduced.

Ben-Yishai outlines four issues which will be at the center of the meetings between the visiting top US officials and their Israeli counterparts:

The first - how the two countries can jointly deter Iran from enriching uranium to the 90% level which would be sufficient for one or more nuclear bombs. Israel believes that a credible Israeli-American military threat and additional severe sanctions will make the Iranians think twice before moving ahead.

The second - how Israel and the United States react if Iran becomes a fully-fledged nuclear threshold state. US officials are not hiding from their Israeli compatriots their concerns about a scenario in which Prime Minister Netanyahu gives the order to attack Iran, not only because it will thwart the Iranian nuclear program, but because it will silence and push the public protest over the judicial reform to the margins of the Israeli public's agenda.

That is why, according to Ben-Yishai, the Americans are demanding that Israel not act without coordinating and confirming with them. "You are a sovereign country," they will say in the meetings, "but it is better that we decide together how to react because in the end we too will have to be involved in the war that will develop".

The third issue - Israel will demand that the United States and the Europeans, through the United Nations, impose additional tough sanctions on Iran within the framework of the Security Council or outside of it, in order to force Iran to reduce military aid to Russia.

The fourth issue - Israeli officials believe that Austin and Milley will demand that Israel refrain from civil and military actions that would agitate the situation with the Palestinian Authority, and also result in the fact the two-state solution will no longer be feasible. The Americans will also demand that the government refrain from actions that would lead to conflicts on the Temple Mount and in Jerusalem during the month of Ramadan. The bottom line is that the Americans are telling Israel: “We will help you as much as possible in the Iranian context but, in return, was ask that you do not ignite a conflict with the PA that will oblige us to be involved in another conflict besides Ukraine and the South China Sea.”