Prime Minister Yair Lapid failed to prevent a disastrous Iran nuclear deal and wasted time by not campaigning in the United States against its revival, opposition leader and Likud Party head Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday evening.
“This deal is worse than the previous one. It’s a strategic disaster for Israel and they [Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz] have done nothing,” Netanyahu said.
"In matters of national security, there is no opposition or coalition in Israel. Israel is strong and will work together to protect its security interests against those who try to harm us."Prime Minister Yair Lapid
He spoke with reporters after a briefing with Lapid on Iran, as Israel is braced for the European Union to succeed in its efforts to revive the 2015 deal, which fell apart after the Trump administration exited the agreement in 2018.
Until he was ousted from the premiership in 2021, Netanyahu had been one of the chief international opponents of the original Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Netanyahu had gone head-to-head with the Obama administration, which helped broker the deal, and had delivered a speech against it in Congress prior to its finalization.
Lapid had taken a strong diplomatic stance against the deal, but has not attempted to bypass US President Joe Biden in the same way Netanyahu did with Obama to speak directly to the US public.
Netanyahu said their strategy was a mistake.
Lapid and Gantz “in the last year have fallen asleep at the wheel,” Netanyahu said. “They should have met with scores of senators and hundreds of members of Congress and appeared on many television stations to put pressure on the Biden administration not to sign this agreement, but those things were not done. Every hour that this does not happen is wasted time.”
"They should have met with scores of senators and hundreds of members of Congress and appeared on many television stations to put pressure on the Biden administration not to sign this agreement, but those things were not done. Every hour that this does not happen is wasted time."Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu
He took credit for the Trump administration’s decision to leave the deal, explaining that it was due to his pressure campaign. However, now, he said, “there is no such pressure.”
Prior to the meeting, Lapid had attempted to turn the conversation into a show of unity that placed Iran above partisan politics.
“In matters of national security, there is no opposition or coalition in Israel. Israel is strong and will work together to protect its security interests against those who try to harm us,” Lapid said prior to the meeting.
Netanyahu criticizes Lapid's approach to nuclear deal, Yesh Atid retorts
After the meeting, Netanyahu gave lip service to that idea of unity in the face of disaster.
“We will support any strong public step against Iran,” Netanyahu said, but then added, “I don’t see any such step.” He said he was “more concerned about Iran in the aftermath of his meeting with Lapid than before.”
Netanyahu, on whose watch the first deal was reached, pledged that if he returns to the Prime Minister’s Office after the November election, he will do everything in his power to prevent a nuclear Iran.
“I have a clear message to the ayatollahs in Tehran: On November 1st, we will bring to Israel a strong and firm leadership that will ensure that with and without an agreement they will never have nuclear weapons.”
The Yesh Atid Party attacked Netanyahu for exploiting the situation for his own political interests.
“In addition to the tremendous damage he caused during his tenure, the opposition leader continues to sabotage and endanger the security of Israeli citizens,” Yesh Atid said.
“While Netanyahu produces and directs out-of-touch videos, the Israeli government led by Lapid will do everything in order to preserve the national-security interest.”
Lapid said he did not want to engage in political skirmishes at the expense of Israel’s security.
“It’s important to have a united Israeli position against Iran’s attempt to obtain nuclear weapons. I call on the chairman of the opposition and everyone not to let political considerations harm our national security,” Lapid said.
Gantz, who is in Japan, issued a similar statement.
“Iran in its pursuit of a nuclear weapon does not distinguish between one Israeli government or another,” Gantz said.
Israeli efforts to block Iran deal continue
The Lapid-led government is in the midst of a last-ditch effort to sway the Biden administration not to revive the deal, which was originally signed between Tehran and six world powers: the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata and Defense Minister Benny Gantz were in Washington in the last weeks. Mossad Director David Barnea is due to head there next week.
The US has already given its response to the latest European Union draft document that has included clarifications by Tehran, which is now expected to provide the EU with additional commentary.
One of the sticking points has been the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation into uranium traces at undisclosed Iranian nuclear sites that have prevented the JCPOA’s revival.
"The essence of the JCPOA negotiations is the dismissal of these charges," the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Mohammed Eslami said on Monday, according to the website Iran International.
The Biden administration and the IAEA have insisted that Iran must provide the IAEA with answers regarding the uranium traces.