Commentary: What if Biden delivered a threatening message to Israel, like "Don't meddle in the talks with Iran"?

Biden's incidental meeting with the head of the Mossad caused surprise. Contrary to the positive headlines in Israel, it is possible that Biden used Cohen's visit to Washington as Netanyahu's representative to send the following message to Jerusalem: Don't interfere with U.S. foreign policy

President Joe Biden arrives to lay a wreath and observes a moment of silence on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, at Arlington, National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)

Over the last few days, various headlines surfaced in Israel about the meeting between Biden and Yossi Cohen. According to journalist Barak Ravid, the U.S. President told Cohen, who came as Netanyahu's envoy, that the U.S. is still far from an agreement with Iran, after Cohen expressed concern to Biden that a return to the accords will endanger Israel.   

Well, while Israel is portraying the meeting as an Israeli achievement – an unplanned meeting with the U.S. President, with an objective of influencing him – nobody knows for sure, except those who were present, what was said at the meeting, or why the U.S. President agreed to meet with the head of the Israeli Mossad without it being arranged in advance. Since Biden took office in January, Biden had not officially met any Israeli government official. Cohen was the first.   

One of the theories is that Cohen, who had been scheduled to meet with Antony Blinken and the head of the CIA, Bill Barnes, revealed information on the issue of Iran that the U.S. was not familiar with. In the past I ruled out this possibility, since it would show a crisis of trust with the U.S. Why? Because the U.S. has been engaged in negotiations with Iran for almost five months, following four years under Trump in which there was excellent cooperation between Israel and the U.S. on the issue of Iran.    

That is to say, if Israel hid such "gold" on the issue of Iran from the U.S. for almost 4.5 years, it would be a crisis of trust. Period. If you work together to thwart the Iranian nuclear program and Israel wants the U.S. President to consider its requests, in the framework of open or secret negotiations with Iran, it could not hide valuable information from the White House for such steps. 

As a result, there is little likelihood of such a scenario. It seems that Cohen went to Washington because Netanyahu trusts him, mainly during an election period when Netanyahu's political future is unclear. Cohen is Netanyahu's confidant as head of the Mossad and at least at this time, he is not a political rival. Therefore he does not "endanger" Netanyahu as his envoy to Biden. 

If Cohen did not bring valuable information to Biden, it raises the question of why Biden wanted to meet with him without it being planned in advance. An additional theory is that Biden used Cohen's presence in Washington as Netanyahu's representative and as head of the Mossad, responsible for operations in Iran, to warn Cohen, and Netanyahu via him, "don't meddle in the process via operations in Iran". It comes after the recent explosion in Natanz attributed to the Israeli Mossad.  

Biden, unlike his predecessor Trump, does not rush to the TV cameras, Twitter or news channels. He does the job quietly, in distinguished American style. He also did not rush to criticize Israel after the recent explosion in Natanz that could have sabotaged his talks with Iran. I wrote previously that the Mossad tried to sabotage Biden's efforts in the current negotiations with Iran via, apparently, the recent sabotage in Natanz.  

In this context, Cohen's planned visit could be used by Biden for an unplanned visit by him to warn Cohen, in a respectful and polite way, that future operations in Iran that interfere with the current negotiations will not be received well in the White House. With smiles and handshakes, of course. The White House did not confirm that the meeting took place.       

Biden, Blinken and Barnes declined to answer questions on the topic, even after the flattering headlines that surfaced in the Israeli media about the meeting. As far as Biden is concerned, the issue is closed. He delivered the message. In Israel, of course, they are marketing a narrative of success. However, behind the scenes, it remains to be seen how Biden's message will be received in Jerusalem and at Mossad headquarters in central Israel.   

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