CIA Chief William Burns meets Netanyahu amid Hamas truce efforts

The talks took place at Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem. No details were immediately provided about what was discussed regarding the delicate diplomacy with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded a meeting with CIA Director William Burns on Thursday, an Israeli source told The Times of Israel, with discussions focused on ongoing efforts to negotiate a truce with the militant group Hamas.

The talks took place at Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem. No details were immediately provided about what was discussed regarding the delicate diplomacy with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

The visit by the head of the U.S. intelligence agency comes as Egypt has been leading mediation attempts to secure a durable ceasefire between Israel and Hamas following the deadly flare-up of violence in May. Burns likely aimed to coordinate with Netanyahu on the truce negotiations.

Israel has demanded that any deal to ease blockades on Gaza must include provisions to stop Hamas from rearming and rebuilding militant capabilities. Hamas has insisted on fully reopening border crossings to allow freer movement of goods and people in and out of the impoverished territory.

Beyond the Hamas talks, Burns’ discussions with Netanyahu likely focused on the stalled efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The U.S. has accused Iran of raising new demands beyond the terms of the original agreement in the indirect negotiations.

Israel has been a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal, arguing it didn’t go far enough to prevent Iran from eventually acquiring nuclear weapons and failed to address other malign behaviour like ballistic missile development.

Netanyahu has repeatedly warned against reviving the deal, arguing it would pave the way for Iran to freely produce nuclear weapons. Israeli officials also see Iran’s arming of regional proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon as major security threats.

The CIA director’s trip marks the highest-level visit to Israel by a U.S. official since Netanyahu’s new right-wing government took over in late 2022. Beyond Iran and Hamas, the Biden administration has voiced concerns over the policies of Netanyahu’s coalition, particularly its possible judicial overhaul.

While working to prevent a new war with Hamas, Burns was expected to reassure Netanyahu that the U.S. remains committed to Israel’s security. However, he likely also aimed to caution Israel against taking unilateral action against Iran’s nuclear program.

The visit showcases how Israel remains a key ally and partner for U.S. intelligence, even as political divides emerge over some policies of the new Israeli government.