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'Whoever is unwilling to fight for freedom won’t get it'

Lapid in the UK: Our fight against Iran and Hezbollah is good against evil

Speaking to Conservative Friends of Israel, FM says Israel will defend itself; Boris Johnson, in raucous address, says Tehran’s regional behavior must change

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (L) and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a Conservative Friends of Israel event in London, Britain, November 29, 2021. (Stuart Mitchell)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (L) and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a Conservative Friends of Israel event in London, Britain, November 29, 2021. (Stuart Mitchell)

Speaking to the Conservative Friends of Israel Monday afternoon alongside UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid delivered an impassioned address against moral relativism, arguing that Israel and Britain were forces of good fighting against evil movements like Nazi Germany, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

“Britain taught the world an unforgettable lesson,” said Lapid, after speaking about his father’s experience in the Budapest Ghetto. “Whoever is unwilling to fight for freedom won’t get it.”

“It is still true today,” he continued, “when terrorism threatens us all. When religious fanatics push to get their hands on nuclear weapons.”

Lapid then turned to those in the West who treat any use of force by powerful states as unjustified. “That there is no such thing as a just war, that no one has the right to take up arms in defense of a principle — this is not only a defeatist approach, it also represents ideological laziness,” he said.

“There is such a thing as good and evil.”

“Not everything is someone’s narrative, inherently worthy of our respect,” Lapid continued. “The struggle between law-abiding democracies and murderous terrorist organizations is not a struggle between narratives. It is a struggle between good and evil.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks to Conservative Friends of Israel in London, Britain, alongside UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, November 29, 2021. (Stuart Mitchell)

Israel’s top diplomat also assailed “the industry of lies” that uses international law and democracy against those countries — a reference to Israel first and foremost — that uphold liberal democratic principles.

Lapid asserted that Israel, having learned the lesson of the ghetto, will defend itself against Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups.

“My children have an army, my children have the Mossad, my children are the sons and daughters of a free nation,” he says. “And when I look around this room, I see another thing: My children have friends, friends who will stand with them.”

After meetings in the UK on Monday, Lapid is slated to meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday before returning to Israel late Tuesday night.

From evil to weevils

Johnson, speaking after Lapid, emphasized Britain’s support for Israel “to defend itself without equivocation from hostile states like Iran.”

International talks on Iran’s nuclear program restarted Monday in Vienna after a five-month hiatus, with Tehran demanding the removal of American sanctions as a condition for restoring the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran ignored appeals from Western countries to restart the talks for several months, all the while strengthening the capabilities of its nuclear program in violation of the accord.

“We hope that diplomacy can work,” Johnson said. “But while the nuclear issue is the most urgent, Iran’s overall behavior has to change. Attacks at sea, the support for terrorism, the destabilization of the region all form part of the same pattern.”

Johnson also underscored his government’s commitment to the struggle against antisemitism, and said he “deplores” the treatment of Israel’s Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely when she came to speak at the London School of Economics and had to be evacuated by guards when pro-Palestinians demonstrators jeered at her.

“We have protected this country against the weevil infestation of antisemitism in the Labor Party,” he said to cheers.

Johnson opened his remarks with an anecdote about being hoisted up in a cherry-picker to light the menorah in  Trafalgar Square with a blowtorch.

In his gregarious style, Johnson joked about the Mossad possessing footage of him dancing on tables during an event in Tel Aviv in case they need it “for strategic purposes.” He also joked that the Maccabees were “a great Scottish tribe.”

Turning to COVID-19, Johnson pointed out, “Is it not extraordinary that it should be the two populations of Britain and Israel — both fiercely independent-minded, both lovers of liberty as Yair has just said, free nations reluctant to be told what to do — and yet it is we, our two populations, that have been the most dynamic and enthusiastic about getting our jabs.”

An Israeli woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit Health Services clinic in Jerusalem on September 9, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

He attributed the countries’ success to their trust in science and rationality, and announced that a UK-Israel innovation summit will take place in London in March.

In advance of their meeting, Lapid and his British counterpart, Liz Truss, published an article Monday in the Daily Telegraph newspaper saying they would “work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power.”

Truss added in a statement that the UK wanted “Iran to agree to the original JCPOA,” but warned that if the talks “don’t work, all options are on the table.”

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