A credible US military threat is needed to pressure Iran to negotiate a stronger tougher deal and to halt Tehran’s production of atomic weapons, an Israeli official said Monday after Prime Minister Yair Lapid wrapped up his two-day visit to Germany.
“Everyone is talking about a [deal with a] longer [time frame], [a more] comprehensive and stronger agreement,” the official told reporters, adding that “it’s time to start this kind of dialogue.”
“The only thing that will send the Iranians [into such talks] is an actual military threat,” the official said, adding that the understanding now is that it is not possible to revive the 2015 Iran deal, which has been dormant since 2018.
“What we need now is the Americans to put a credible threat” on the table, the official said.
He recalled that former US president Barack Obama had done so and that it was this threat that prompted Tehran in 2015 to sign the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran deal.
Iran ‘cheating’ with weapons production
While in Berlin, Lapid had provided secret information to the Germans, which showed that “the Iranians are cheating even as we speak,” the official said.
This comes at a time when the Europeans, even more than the Americans, are concerned about the link between Iran and Russia, the official said.
Lapid spoke about the need to abandon all efforts to revive the 2015 Iran deal during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Monday morning.
“It is time to move past the failed negotiations with Iran,” he said. “They cannot and will not achieve the goals we all share to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”
“We discussed the need for a new strategy to stop Iran’s nuclear program,” he added. “A nuclear Iran will destabilize the Middle East and create a nuclear arms race that will endanger the entire world.”
“Returning to the nuclear agreement under the current conditions would be a critical mistake,” Lapid said. “Removing sanctions and pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into Iran would bring a wave of terrorism – not only to the Middle East, but across Europe.”
The two men spoke just days after the talks to revive the deal hit a serious impasse. Iran has insisted that the International Atomic Energy Agency must end its probe into traces of uranium found at undeclared Iranian nuclear sites.
The US, France, Britain and Germany, all of whom are signatories to the deal, have refused to close the investigation.
US President Joe Biden had hoped to revive the deal when he entered office in 2021, but the longer the negotiations to restore that agreement drag on, the more futile the efforts have become. Limits on Iran’s nuclear program written into the deal are set to expire soon, and some will do so in 2024 and 2025.
Israel has always opposed the deal, fearing it was not strong enough to halt Iran’s nuclear program. It has warned that the deal is a weaker document now than when it was first put in place.
Scholz told reporters in Berlin he understands that this means the 2015 deal to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons is unlikely to be revived in the near future.
“We know that in the foreseeable future it will not happen, although it looked like it would happen for some time,” Scholz said.
Any Iranian use of atomic weapons would be devastating for the entire region and must be prevented, he said.
Iran was not the only topic of conversation that Lapid discussed during the back-to-back meetings he held with Scholz as well as with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
They also discussed Lebanon, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and antisemitism, as well as the advancement of bilateral relations.
The Israeli official confirmed that a US-brokered deal over a Lebanese-Israeli maritime border involving two abutting gas reservoirs was close to resolution.
The plan now is for Israel to control the Karish gas field, which is expected to go into production next month, and for Lebanon to control the Qana gas field.
Both sides are close, but the situation could still fall apart and lead to a miscalculation with Hezbollah, the official said.
“We will extract from Karish as soon as possible, and if Hezbollah plays games with us,” Israel will respond, the official said, adding that Israel would not compromise on Karish and will not halt its plans for gas production.
“Terrorist organizations will not dictate policy to us,” the official said.
Lapid and the Israeli delegation had explained to the Germans that the Palestinian Authority had to do more to halt terrorism against Israel, the official said.
Lapid’s entourage also included Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll, National Security Council Adviser Eyal Hulata, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz, diplomatic adviser Yair Zivan, special adviser Gili Haushner and Ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor.
Lapid, Scholz visit Wannsee Conference villa with Holocaust survivors
The most emotional component of the trip was the visit Lapid made with Scholz to the villa where the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 finalized plans for the total annihilation of the Jews of Europe. They were joined by five Holocaust survivors who had flown with Lapid to Germany.
Lapid, the son of a Holocaust survivor, spoke of his emotions at that moment.
“An hour ago, I entered the office of the chancellor and was greeted by an honor guard of German soldiers who saluted the Jewish state,” he said. “I thought about the first time my father saw a German soldier.”
He recalled the childhood experience of his father, Tommy Lapid, who had been a prominent Israeli politician and journalist.
“Today,” however, “the German chancellor, the German military and the people of Germany came here, to the Wannsee Villa, the place where the bureaucracy of evil was crafted” to ask for forgiveness. “We came here to tell them we won,” Lapid said.
“My grandfather Bela died in a concentration camp, but my father survived and raised a family, and they established a country,” he said. “That country is proud to be here today.”
“I thank you, my friend, for coming here with us today,” Lapid told Scholz. “It takes a fair amount of moral courage to do so. Thank you for coming.”