Diplomacy won’t stop Iran from going nuclear, Lapid tells Biden in press conference
Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter
Words and diplomacy will not stop Iran from achieving nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Yair Lapid says during his press conference with US President Joe Biden at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, after the two leaders sign the Jerusalem Declaration.
“The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program the free world will use force. The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table,” he says.
“It should not be a bluff, but the real thing,” Lapid continues. “The Iranian regime must know that if they continue to deceive the world, they will pay a heavy price.”
“The fact that I am standing here today did not happen by itself,” says Lapid. “We learned the lesson, Mr. President. At all times, Israel must be strong, free and safe, with a powerful army that can defend our citizens.”
Referencing the biblical Joshua and Martin Luther King, Lapid says, “The principle is the same: If you want your independence, your hands must defend you, and your legs must pray for you. You must march fearlessly towards the river.”
Lapid also asks Biden to send a message to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Iraq: “Our hand is outstretched for peace. We are ready to share our technology and experience, ready for our people to meet and learn about one another, ready for our scientists to collaborate and our businesses to cooperate.”
“We send with you, to all the nations of the region, including of course the Palestinians, a message of peace.”
He also calls Biden’s flight to Saudi Arabia from Israel “important for Israel and for the region. For our security and for the future prosperity of the Middle East.”
The prime minister points at “Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” terrorism, and the Iranian nuclear threat as reminders that “in order to protect freedom, sometimes force must be used.”
Lapid draws a parallel between the 9/11 terror attacks and Hamas rocket fire on Sderot, painting them as attacks on democracy that instill fear in terrorists and their supporters.
“What scares them the most is that their citizens, their people, can see us. They can see our quality of life. The dynamism and creativity of our economy. The rights of women and the LGBTQ community. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”
“It’s what makes the Iranian regime develop its nuclear program, Hezbollah aim its missiles at us and terrorist organizations worldwide send suicide bombers,” he continues. “They want to destroy the only Jewish state in the world. We will never let that happen.”
Lapid finishes by thanking Biden for America’s friendship and commitment to Israel, calling it “one of the cornerstones of Israel’s national security.”
“Throughout all your years in public service, you were one of the chief architects of this relationship, for that you have the everlasting gratitude of the people of Zion.”
Asked by a reporter whether he still supports the concept of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, Lapid says: “A two-state solution is a guarantee for a strong democratic Israel with a Jewish majority.”
However, he ignores a second question regarding whether he’ll advance the issue if he is elected prime minister in the November election.