Israel would be in a better position to improve an impending nuclear deal between Iran and the West if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had not harmed relations with the US, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
"We think that there are too many centrifuges still there, and this is not harsh enough or strong enough toward the Iranians," Lapid said in an interview for the JPost Election Arena. "If things were as they used to be in the relationship between Israel and the United States, we would be able to makes some impact and change this deal for the better of Israel."
Ties between the Prime Minister and US President Barack Obama, which have never been fully amicable, hit a new nadir when Netanyahu accepted an invitation from Republican House Speaker John Boeher to address a joint session of Congress on the Iran issue. The White House was not consulted prior to the invitation, and the speech has been seen as a move to undermine ongoing negotiations.
Lapid would not explicitly comment on whether or not he thought the brewing deal was good or bad, saying there was no longer sufficient information sharing as a result of the speech.
Asked how Israel should handle the deal, Lapid said, "You should do it quietly, not poking the United States President in the chest." Because of the speech, a planned Iran sanctions bill sponsored by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) lost bipartisan support. The administration had warned that passage of such a bill would collapse negotiations altogether.
Yet Lapid threw his support behind the now-defunct sanctions bill, saying that it was "everything we hoped for" because it put "extra sanctions on Iran in the right moment.”
"If not for this speech, the Kirk-Menendez bill would have been served to the Congress, and even if it was vetoed by the President, I think Israel with AIPAC would have been able along with our friends on the hill to even overthrow a veto, getting 2/3 of the votes," Lapid said.
The full interview with Lapid, in which he discusses his evolving views on legalizing Marijuana and rules out introducing democratic primaries in his party, will be available on jpost.com