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Israeli Prime Minister Lapid, Netanyahu trade jabs over handling of Iran nuclear deal

Lapid later issues unifying statement: "In matters of national security, there is no opposition and coalition"

Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu for a security briefing on the Iran nuclear deal, Aug. 29, 2022 (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

After a rare demonstration of unity in which Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid briefed opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on the nuclear deal with Iran, the two traded barbs on social media – again. 

“Lapid and [Israeli Defense Minister Benny] Gantz fell asleep during their watch, as the Biden administration is heading towards what the Mossad chief justly referred to as a ‘disaster’ and they are doing nothing,” Netanyahu said on Monday. 

The former prime minister said he left “more concerned” than he had been prior to the meeting with Lapid.

In a statement, he stressed that he would support “every stark public stance against the nuclear deal” but said, “Unfortunately, I do not see such a public stance.”

Lapid, after the meeting, said that “in matters of national security there is no opposition and coalition.”

“I briefed opposition leader Netanyahu on the nuclear agreement with Iran and the diplomatic and security efforts that Israel is leading in order to influence the matter, as well as other national security issues,” Lapid wrote on social media. “Israel is strong and will work together to protect its security interests against those who try to harm us.” 

The meeting between Lapid and Netanyahu lasted an hour and followed another public confrontation on social media between the two top lawmakers just a day earlier. Elections are scheduled for Nov. 1 and both Lapid and Netanyahu lead the top two parties. 

On Sunday, Lapid slammed Netanyahu for his manner of diplomacy vis-à-vis the U.S. in 2015, when then-U.S. President Barack Obama was heading towards signing the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu delivered a fierce speech to Congress, in which he publicly criticized and challenged the Obama administration. 

“When Netanyahu was prime minister, everything he did on the Iranian issue was to throw press conferences and presentations. The damage he caused to Israel’s two most important strategic issues during his tenure – the fight against a nuclear Iran and relations with the U.S. – is serious and deep and we are still working to repair it,” Lapid said on Twitter on Sunday. 

In recent days, Netanyahu did not spare his criticism of the Lapid-Bennett government strategy of quiet diplomacy with the White House during the last 16 months of nuclear negotiations. Both Lapid and Bennett have refrained from publicly attacking the White House for its handling of the nuclear talks, hoping that would make an impact on the content of a potential deal – or even to convince the U.S. not to join it. 

While Netanyahu declined to receive security briefings from former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, this was his second security briefing from Lapid within a month. The first related to the Israel Defense Forces’ Operation Breaking Dawn against the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group. 

According to Israeli media reports, Lapid has been struggling to set up a phone call with Biden on the Iran deal despite requesting one. Israel’s Channel 13 reported that the White House told Lapid’s office the American president was “on vacation.” 

According to The Jerusalem Post, Lapid will seek a face-to-face meeting with Biden next month during his visit to the United Nations General Assembly.  

On Monday, Netanyahu accused Lapid and Gantz of ditching the public campaign against the nuclear deal and “waking up too late” to speak out against it – only “after the U.S. and Iran had agreed to most of the deal.” 

“They have not done anything to pressure the Biden administration not to sign this deal,” Netanyahu said on Monday. “They did not go to Congress; they did not go to the U.N.” 

However, Gantz was in the U.S. last week for talks with his American counterparts.

On Sunday, Netanyahu slammed Lapid on social media for his support of the original 2015 nuclear deal. 

“Mr. Lapid, you must have forgotten that back then you attacked me and supported the dangerous nuclear deal, whereas we were able to push the United States out of it. I will explain this to you tomorrow,” Netanyahu stated. 

The nuclear deal could be finalized this week, according to the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. Both Tehran and Washington have reviewed each other’s comments on the E.U.’s final draft proposal and are waiting for further assessments. 

Meanwhile, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned on Monday that his country will not go back to the deal unless International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors ended their probe into the uranium particles found at particular Iranian sites. This demand is seen is one of the main hurdles for restoring the 2015 deal. 

At a press conference marking his first year in office, Raisi said if Israel were to make good on its threats to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, we “will see if anything from the Zionist regime will remain.”

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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