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Israel defence, foreign ministers dismiss Netanyahu's pick for Iran file

Leader of Israel's Blue and White electoral alliance Benny Gantz listens to Gabi Ashkenazi, a member of the Blue and White electoral alliance, speaking during a press conference in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on the border with Gaza on 24 February 2020. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]
Leader of Israel's Blue and White electoral alliance Benny Gantz listens to Gabi Ashkenazi, a member of the Blue and White electoral alliance, speaking during a press conference in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on the border with Gaza on 24 February 2020. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

Israeli Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, have rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's nominee to lead Tel Aviv's contacts with the United States and the other signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, local media outlets have reported.

Israel's Maariv newspaper said Gantz and Ashkenazi demanded Netanyahu cancel the appointment of National Security Adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, as Israel's special envoy to the Iran nuclear file or appoint a special envoy along with him to lead the talks. The pair believe Ben-Shabbat lacks the necessary expertise for such a sensitive role.

Maariv quoted sources close to Gantz and Ashkenazi as saying: "Ben-Shabbat has no background in the Iranian issue and has never addressed this issue," adding that he does not understand English and is not in contact with senior officials in the Biden administration.

According to Al-Monitor, Netanyahu's appointment of Ben-Shabbat shows that he "does not believe dialoguing with the Biden administration on Iran will do any good."

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