Israel’s very public disagreement with the US over the interim nuclear deal signed in Geneva between Iran and world powers last weekend is a dispute “within the family,” Finance Minister and Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid said Monday.
In an interview with CNBC, Lapid lauded Israeli-American ties, stressing that “the kind of intimacy we have with the United States government” is “maybe [Israel's] most strategic asset.”
“I think it’s OK to have disputes within the family as long we keep it within the family — I think we’re still in the framework of [being] within the family,” Lapid repeated in an attempt to calm the tensions that have flared between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration since the P5+1 world powers and Iran began meeting in the Swiss capital last month to hammer out a deal that would curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for eased international sanctions.
“We understand the US means well and is doing its best under very complicated circumstances [but] we think we have earned the right to be listened to,” Lapid insisted.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly slammed the Geneva interim accord with Iran, signed early last week, as a “historic mistake.” And officials in Jerusalem have repeatedly castigated President Barack Obama for overseeing a failed negotiating process with Iran under which, they claim, Iran’s nuclear weapons drive is not being thwarted while the sanctions pressure against Iran is collapsing.
“I would like to dispel any illusions. Iran aspires to attain an atomic bomb,” Netanyahu said while on a state visit to Italy Sunday, adding that he would not be silent” when “interests vital to the security of Israel’s citizens are in danger.”
The US has issued its own retorts, with US Secretary of State John Kerry taking to the airwaves last week to say that the deal in fact made Israel safer. “You have to be able to show that you’ve gone through all of the diplomatic avenues available before considering other alternatives,” he said during an interview with ABC News.
Others weren’t quite so diplomatic, with one unnamed senior White House official calling Netanyahu’s reaction to the deal “weak” and “desperate.”
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert launched a public attack against Netanyahu Sunday for his “utterly misguided” policy of publicly confronting the United States, accusing him of causing an unprecedented and acutely dangerous rift in bilateral diplomatic relations.
“We’ve declared war on the American government. You can’t deny this,” Olmert said at panel discussion at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
Israel has “earned the right to be more concerned than anyone else,” Lapid stressed.
“People have to remember that when they wonder why we have been so loud against this agreement with Iran. For us it’s not academic or theoretical, it’s existential. Here’s a regime that’s been loud about its wish and commitment to the destruction of Israel,” he said.
The Israeli government has been a strong advocate of increased sanctions on Iran despite the deal, lobbying Congress to pass a new bill that would see additional punitive measures imposed on the Islamic Republic.
Earlier Monday, the Washington Post revealed that “a bipartisan juggernaut of senior senators” was currently working through the Thanksgiving recess to forge a new agreement aimed at passing a new sanctions bill against Iran before Christmas — a move the Obama White House has strongly urged against, arguing that it could thwart talks to reach a final deal with Tehran on curbing its nuclear program, set to begin in January.
“Our view is that passing these sanctions during the life of the negotiations would complicate the negotiations in a number of ways,” said an administration official quoted in the report.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.