Lapid opposes US pullout of Iran nuclear deal

Opposition MK says Netanyahu is wrong to pressure Trump to exit accord unilaterally without European support

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid speaks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations event in Jerusalem on February 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid speaks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations event in Jerusalem on February 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on Thursday came out against a United States withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal without European support, arguing that US President Donald Trump should stay in the accord for six more months to negotiate changes to the agreement.

Trump is reportedly poised to scrap the agreement, negotiated in 2015 between Tehran and six world powers, ahead of a May 12 deadline for Washington to renew its support for the deal.

Lapid accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of pressuring Trump to exit the accord without coordinating the move with Europe.

“Netanyahu is trying to unilaterally cancel the agreement, I say let’s take six more months,” Lapid told Army Radio. “I am opposed to the nuclear deal, but I am not in favor of canceling it unilaterally.”

“Netanyahu has been saying for a year that the deal has to be fixed or nixed, now is the time to find out which of those he supports,” the opposition figure said, adding that Washington “doesn’t fully understand” what the Israeli government’s position is on the matter.

“We should involve and coordinate this with the Europeans if we want sanctions on the ballistic missile program, on promoting terrorism and making the inspections stricter,” Lapid argued.

He expressed support for a plan proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, which states that 10 years after the signing of the agreement, a new and more strict deal will come into force.

Lapid also repeated his claim that Netanyahu made a serious error of judgment by publicly presenting information gleaned from the Mossad’s capture of Iran’s nuclear program archives.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exposes files that prove Iran’s nuclear program in a press conference in Tel Aviv, on April 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Had I been prime minister, I would sit with European leaders in closed forums and present the material to them,” he said.

On Wednesday, Lapid said the prime minister had “made a professional mistake of the first order in his judgment on national security issues.”

On Monday the prime minister made a televised presentation — live, in English and broadcast around the world — unveiling a massive intelligence trove on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Netanyahu presented what he said was a vast archive of Iran’s own documentation demonstrating that Tehran worked to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal and brazenly lied to the international community about it — facts which, the prime minister claimed, totally undermined the legitimacy of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures to Iranian nuclear files obtained by Israel which he says proves Iran lied about its nuclear weapons program, April 30, 2018 (Prime Minister’s Office)

“The prime minister and the head of the Mossad should have gone round in the White House, the Bundestag and the international community and presented it to them in closed forums,” Lapid said on Wednesday. He explained that showing the material to world leaders face to face would have been much more effective.

Netanyahu’s Likud party responded on Wednesday to Lapid’s criticism, charging that he was using Israel’s security to score political points.

“Contrary to his delusional statement, the decision to publish the Iranian nuclear archive was accepted jointly by all the relevant security agencies,” a statement from Likud said.

“When your military experience amounts to serving in the Bamahane [army] newspaper, this is what comes out,” the statement continued. “If someone won’t help it is better that at least they don’t interfere.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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