Iran nuclear deal is obsolete, new agreement needed - Israeli official

Lapid thanked the E3 for their strong position on the revival of the nuclear deal at Sunday's weekly government meeting.

 Prime Minister Yair Lapid lands in Germany for a diplomatic visit with Holocaust survivor Shosh Terrister, September 11, 2022.  (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid lands in Germany for a diplomatic visit with Holocaust survivor Shosh Terrister, September 11, 2022.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

The feasible timeline for reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal has passed, and negotiation with Tehran should focus on a new, stronger text, a senior Israeli official told reporters prior to Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s arrival in Berlin on Sunday night.

“Now is the time to come up with a new agreement” to halt Iran’s push to develop nuclear weapons, stated the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. If a deal could be reached with Iran once, it could be negotiated a second time, the official said.

“We definitely think that the adherence” by the six world powers “to returning to the previous nuclear agreement is a mistake, and they can achieve more if they put their policies in the right place,” he explained.

The official speculated that “at this point in time, it appears that a nuclear agreement with Iran will not be signed at least until after the [US] midterm elections” in November.

He noted that such a long delay in finalizing a deal only underscored how futile the efforts were to adhere to the original document negotiated between Tehran and the six world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

 European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria June 20, 2021 (credit: REUTERS) European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria June 20, 2021 (credit: REUTERS)

The official’s words came as Lapid was set to hold back-to-back meetings with the German foreign minister, president and chancellor on Monday in an attempt to sway them to abandon efforts to revive the deal, which has been dormant since former US president Donald Trump exited it in 2018.

“The goal of this visit is coordinating positions on the nuclear issue, and finalizing the details of the strategic, economic and security cooperation document we are going to sign,” Lapid told the government at its weekly meeting in Jerusalem.

“Together with Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Israel is conducting a successful diplomatic campaign to stop the nuclear agreement and prevent the lifting of sanctions on Iran,” Lapid said. “There is still a long way to go, but there are encouraging signs.”

"Together with Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Israel is conducting a successful diplomatic campaign to stop the nuclear agreement and prevent the lifting of sanctions on Iran."

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid

The official’s words came as Lapid was set to hold back-to-back meetings with the German foreign minister, president and chancellor on Monday in an attempt to sway them to abandon efforts to revive the deal, which has been dormant since former US president Donald Trump exited it in 2018.

“The goal of this visit is coordinating positions on the nuclear issue, and finalizing the details of the strategic, economic and security cooperation document we are going to sign,” Lapid told the government at its weekly meeting in Jerusalem.

“Together with Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Israel is conducting a successful diplomatic campaign to stop the nuclear agreement and prevent the lifting of sanctions on Iran,” Lapid said. “There is still a long way to go, but there are encouraging signs.”

What is Israel's history with the Iran deal?

Israel opposed the 2015 deal and is even more opposed to the revival of a document that it believes is not strong enough to halt Iran’s nuclear program and that would provide Tehran with money to fund terrorist proxy groups.

It has also now pointed to the illogic of reviving a 2015 document, given that aspects of the agreement are set to expire between 2025 and 2030, so that by the time the old deal was in place a new one would already be needed.

US President Joe Biden has sought to revive the deal since entering office in 2021. The European Union has held indirect talks between the US and Tehran on the matter for the last year and a half without success.

Last month it appeared as if the deal’s revival was imminent. Now negotiations have hit an impasse over Iran’s demand that the International Atomic Energy Agency end its probe into uranium traces that were found at undisclosed nuclear locations. The IAEA has refused to end its investigation. The US and the E3 – Germany, France and Britain – have supported the IAEA’s position.

Unless the IAEA, Iran and the US together with the E3 change their minds, “there won’t be any choice” but to abandon the 2015 deal, the Israeli official explained. “The only way there can be progress is if one of the three sides changes their positions.”

"The only way there can be progress is if one of the three sides changes their positions."

Israeli official

Iran is not interested in reviving the deal, the official said, adding that its goal is to ensure that the crippling US sanctions are lifted and that the IAEA probe is closed.

The E3 clarified their support for the IAEA probe on Saturday. Lapid thanked the E3 for their “strong position on this matter,” at Sunday’s weekly government meeting.

“Yesterday, the E3 countries announced that a nuclear agreement with Iran will not be signed in the near future, that the IAEA’s open files regarding Iran are not about to be closed,” Lapid said, adding that Israel had played a strong role in preventing the deal’s revival.

“In recent months, we held a discreet and intensive dialogue with them, and presented them with up-to-date intelligence information about Iranian activity at nuclear sites,” he explained.

But even as Israel touted the partial success of its campaign to thwart the deal, it noted that further conversations such as the ones scheduled in Berlin need to take place.

“Lapid continues to hold important conversations with leaders of the West,”’ the official stated.

Israel has held conversations with the E3 and US with every round of talks, the Israeli official said, explaining that at this point it had “influenced the Americans to avoid further concessions to Iran. This is a very important thing.”

The senior Israeli leadership has spoken with one clear voice to the US about the danger of a nuclear Iran, the official said. Those talks have appeared to have been successful because they were held behind closed doors.

Israel holds a much more hawkish line on Iran than the US and so it is important to have a successful dialogue process such as the one that has been held with the Biden administration and members of Congress, the official said.

In Israel on Sunday, US Ambassador Tom Nides spoke of his desire to see the Iran deal revived under the right conditions, but said he understood that this might not happen.

“Iran and tier proxies are a fundamental significant threat to the state of Israel, we all agree to that,” Nides said at Reichman International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

“President Biden has said over and over that we will not stand by to let the Iranians obtain a nuclear weapon,” Nides said. “We will never tie Israel’s hands with what they need to do to defend the state of Israel.”

Iran is not the only focus of Lapid’s trip. A group of Holocaust survivors is traveling with Lapid, who will visit the villa where the Wannsee Conference took place in which plans were finalized for the “Final Solution.”

Lapid, is the son of a Holocaust survivor and a well-known Israeli politician Tommy Lapid.  He disembarked from the plane with the Holocaust survivors.

"I arrived in Berlin this evening for a diplomatic visit accompanied by Holocaust survivors Pnina, Avraham, Shoshana, Israel and Zvi. We got off the plane together on German soil where we were greeted by soldiers from the German Army's honor guard. 

"This is their victory as well as mine as a son of a Holocaust survivor and ours as a people and as a country," said Lapid. "We will never forget."