Germany, France, UK cannot ignore the Iranian threat - Lapid

“A nuclear Iran endangers not only Israel but the entire world," the foreign minister said.

 Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, February 10, 2022.  (photo credit: MIRI SHIMONOVITZ)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, February 10, 2022.
(photo credit: MIRI SHIMONOVITZ)

European countries must address the broader Iranian threat beyond current negotiations for a nuclear deal, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said at a news conference with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday.

“A nuclear Iran endangers not only Israel but the entire world,” Lapid said. “The E3 countries [Germany, France and the UK] cannot ignore the threat posed by Iran beyond its nuclear project. It’s Hezbollah in the North, Hamas in the South. Iran is an exporter of terror from Yemen to Buenos Aires.”

Baerbock said that an Iran deal “will make the region safer, or else we wouldn’t be holding these talks.”

The negotiations “are at a critical point,” Baerbock added. “We want to do everything to ensure Israel’s security.”

Baerbock also met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who told her that “signing an agreement with Iran is a mistake that will endanger the whole region.”

 KAZEM GHARIB ABADI, Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, leaves a meeting in Vienna on following up the Iran nuclear agreement. (credit: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters) KAZEM GHARIB ABADI, Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, leaves a meeting in Vienna on following up the Iran nuclear agreement. (credit: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

Bennett called for the Western parties to set an end date for the talks because extending them only serves Iranian interests. The E3 and the US have been saying since the sides returned to the table in Vienna in late November that there are only weeks left until Iran’s nuclear project will have progressed too far for the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to be effective.

Negotiations continued in Vienna on Thursday for the US and Iran to return to the nuclear agreement, with the Iranian team meeting with the EU and Russian delegations.

In recent days, diplomats from some of the countries involved characterized this round of talks as the final one. Russian Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, said on Thursday that there is a long way to go before the sides revive the JCPOA.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in a press conference on Thursday that "the time for the end of the Vienna talks will be determined by the will of the Western parties and their full commitment to the lifting of sanctions."

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi lamented to foreign ambassadors in his country that "the policy of the current US administration has so far not been very different from the performance of the previous administration."

Bennett expressed concerns earlier this week that the direction in which the talks are going indicate that the economic advantages to Iran from lifting sanctions in the framework of a deal will enable it to increase its malign actions, outweighing the nonproliferation benefits of the deal itself, and that the world will lose its leverage to push Iran to continue the agreement’s restrictions beyond the short term.

Bennett told US President Joe Biden as much in their 30-minute phone call on Sunday, saying that “nothing will happen” – as in, no escalation is expected – if the US does not revive the 2015 Iran deal, a diplomatic source said on Thursday, confirming a report in Walla News.

Biden spoke with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Wednesday about attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi Rebels on Saudi Arabia, and briefed the king on the negotiations to return to the Iran nuclear deal.

National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata was in Washington to meet with his American counterpart Jake Sullivan on Wednesday.

“They underscored their shared determination to address security challenges impacting the Middle East, including the threats posed by Iran and its proxies,” a statement from the US National Security Council reads. “Mr. Sullivan reiterated President Biden’s unwavering support to Israel’s security and to ensuring Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.”

IN TEL AVIV, Lapid slammed the recent Amnesty International report on Israel, saying that “the use of this word ‘apartheid’ against the people who have suffered from racism more than any other is unforgivable and not to be tolerated. It is part of a larger campaign whose goal is to undermine Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people. In the face of this campaign, Germany... is a true friend whose support we can count on.”

Asked about the designation last year of six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations after Israeli authorities found they were funneling funds to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Lapid said that Israel and Germany plan to form a working group to ensure money designated for humanitarian projects does not go to terrorism.

“The fact that someone is calling himself a human rights organization doesn’t make it so,” Lapid said. “There is no reason for Israel to be against the concept of human rights NGOs, but those six NGOs were... transferring money to a specific terrorist organization.”

The PFLP is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the EU, among others.

“Israel needs to make sure our security is being protected from terror, which is something that is threatening us,” Lapid added. “The fact that terror organizations are using the values of European countries in order to finance terror is horrifying to me and should be to you, as well.”

Baerbock said that Berlin takes Jerusalem’s explanations seriously.

“We are working so that Foreign Ministry funds do not reach unwanted channels,” she said. “We need a strong civil society [for the Palestinians], and that is what the German government is emphasizing.”

The foreign minister called Israel’s relationship with Germany one of its most important ones, “based on democratic values,” and a similar worldview when it comes to climate change, LGBT rights, combating racism and defending democracy.

Baerbock said the countries discussed climate policy and encouraged diplomatic cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors on that front, offering help from her ministry.

Israel and Jordan are already working on cooperation in the area of clean energy, with US mediation.

“Israel can depend on Germany’s solidarity,” said Baerbock. “We are guarantors of Israel’s security.”

Baerbock spoke of possible joint German-Israeli efforts to combat antisemitism and favors youth exchange programs to increase dialogue. She said she only knew about Jewish people growing up from books, and that meeting one another can have a positive influence.

Earlier, Baerbock visited Yad Vashem.

“As a mother of two girls, I was breathless when I thought of the millions of Jewish children murdered and taken from their parents and left alone, fearing the unknown. It is hard to bear the thought of the pain each child and each mother and father felt. Yad Vashem calls on us to make the voices of those who experienced the horrors heard and share their testimony. It is our responsibility, especially those in the younger generation, to preserve the memory of the Holocaust as a living memory.

“We have the responsibility to raise our voice against antisemitism, against hate speech, and against exclusion and violence, so that a crime like this against humanity will never happen again, for the future of our children,” Baerbock stated.