Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid on Saturday lambasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him that of failing to prevent the passage of the Iran nuclear deal in Congress, and in the process destroying Israel’s relationship with the US and harming Israel’s defense capabilities.
“Netanyahu must go in front of the citizens of Israel and say: ‘I failed,'” Lapid said at a cultural event in Beersheba. “Netanyahu has been engaged in the aggressive destruction of relations with the United States. This is where Netanyahu is leading. It is a tremendous failure. He thought he could defeat the president in the Senate and he failed.”
The prime minister, Lapid charged, “damaged our relations with the United States, split the Jewish community in the United States, led us to a situation in which Israel is no longer a bipartisan issue and perhaps most seriously, damaged Israel’s security deterrence. The Arab world is looking towards Israel today and understands that we are not shoulder to shoulder with the United States.”
Netanyahu has been a vocal and vehement opponent of the agreement brokered in July, which curbs Iran’s nuclear program in return for an end to sanctions that crippled the Iranian economy and brought the Islamic Republic to the negotiating table.
US President Barack Obama this week hit his target of support from 34 senators for the Iran deal, guaranteeing that his potential veto of a Congressional vote to disapprove of the agreement cannot be overturned in the Senate. As the number of lawmakers backing the deal continues to rise, the president is now hoping to garner sufficient support to thwart the passage of legislation opposing the agreement.
Lapid said that he has submitted a letter to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee calling on it to investigate this failure. “We need to examine how we reached the point at which Israel’s national security has been harmed,” he said.
Netanyahu on Thursday defended his high-profile campaign to defeat the Iran deal, saying said it had been important for him to highlight the Jewish state’s concerns.
“It’s important to reach American public opinion with the fact that Iran is the US’s enemy — it announces that openly — and Israel is an ally of the US,” the prime minster said.
But the former finance minister also ridiculed Netanyahu’s reaction, and warned that with Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Office, there would be no real rapprochement with the US.
“Now Netanyahu says, ‘I knew we would lose,’” Lapid said Saturday. “Does he think we’re all stupid? If you knew we were going to lose why did you ask AIPAC to use their political capital in the White House and in Congress to gain support? Why did you deliver that speech to Congress? So long as Netanyahu is prime minister it won’t be possible to rehabilitate the relationship with the United States, it won’t just rebuild itself.”
Both Netanyahu and Obama, however, have maintained that despite the often sharp disagreement on the issue, the relationship between Israel and the US has remained fundamentally undamaged.
The director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Netanyahu ally Dore Gold this week denied that he had ever said Israel was aiming to block the agreement, but rather had sought to point out its flaws and dangers.