Lapid: Israel, US don’t ‘necessarily agree’ on need for military threat against Iran

PM highlights Jerusalem Declaration signed by Biden, says it ‘assures the qualitative advantage of the Israeli security establishment’ in face of the Iranian nuclear threat

Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 17, 2022. (Marc Israel Sellem/ POOL)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 17, 2022. (Marc Israel Sellem/ POOL)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid reportedly said Sunday that the US and Israel did not “necessarily agree” on the need for a credible military threat against Iran, during conversations with US President Joe Biden in Jerusalem last week.

“We came and asked to introduce a credible military threat during President Biden’s visit,” Lapid said during the closed-door portion of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, according to Channel 13 news.

“We want the basis [for world power’s negotiations with Iran] to be a credible military threat,” the prime minister added. “We didn’t necessarily agree on this with the Americans.”

Earlier in the meeting, Lapid said he “made it clear to the president and his team that Israel opposes the nuclear deal and maintains complete freedom to act, diplomatically and operationally, in the face of the Iranian nuclear program.”

Despite the apparent disagreement on the Iranian issue, Lapid referred to Biden’s trip to Israel as “a historic visit, with achievements in diplomacy, security, and the economy,” which he said “will strengthen the State of Israel for years to come.”

Lapid highlighted the so-called Jerusalem Declaration, that he signed alongside Biden in Jerusalem last week, which says that Washington will “use all elements of its national power” to ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. “It assures the qualitative advantage of the Israeli security establishment,” Lapid said Sunday.

US President Joe Biden holds a joint press conference with Prime Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2022. (Emil Salman/POOL)

On Thursday, National Security adviser Eyal Hulata said in a rare interview that Israel was not hesitant to air differences of opinion with the US regarding how to counter the Iranian threat.

“We aren’t afraid to tell the Americans that we think differently, or to even act in Iran,” he said in an interview with Channel 13 news after meeting with Biden.

In a rare public admission of Israel’s activities against Iran, Hulata said Israel had “acted quite a lot in Iran over the past year.”

“Israel will act as it sees fit. We’ve acted quite a lot in Iran over the past year, and the US is backing us. We are acting with logic and responsibility, and everyone can see this isn’t harming the relationship between the US president and Israel — on the contrary,” he told Channel 13.

Eyal Hulata, Israel’s National Security Council chairman, looks on during the 17th IISS Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama, on November 20, 2021 (Mazen MAHDI / AFP)

Meanwhile, Michael Erik Kurilla, head of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), arrived in Israel on Sunday to discuss Israel’s air defenses, as Israel hopes to partner with Washington on the Iron Beam project, including American investment in further development and deployment of the system.

On Wednesday, Biden was given a tour of Israel’s multi-tier air defense systems, including the long-range Arrow, medium-range David’s Sling, short-range Iron Dome, and an in-development high-powered laser interception system dubbed Iron Beam.

Amid reports of efforts to create an integrated air defense network for Israel to cooperate with its Arab allies against Iran, a US official told The Times of Israel that the initiative is still in the works, and that Biden’s look at some of the technologies Israel exports to some of its regional allies would be a “nod” to such cooperation.

But while Lapid touted Biden’s visit as significant to Israel and the region, others have pointed to the “modest” achievements made after four whirlwind days of meetings and speeches.

Driving the point home, as Air Force One flew back to Washington Saturday evening, Biden’s Saudi hosts downplayed one of the trip’s few concrete announcements: their lifting of airspace restrictions on flights to and from Israel, which Biden himself had earlier hailed as “a big deal.”

Emanuel Fabian and AFP contributed to this report.

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