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Netanyahu hits back at Lapid, says he ‘abandoned’ public fight against Iran deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press regarding the Iranian nuclear program, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on September 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press regarding the Iranian nuclear program, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on September 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu hits back at Prime Minister Yair Lapid, accusing the latter of “completely abandoning” the public fight against talks to resume the Iran deal over the past year.

Earlier today, Lapid told reporters: “We must not get to the situation we were in 2015. To this day, we are paying for the damage caused by Netanyahu’s speech in Congress, following which the US administration ended its dialogue with us and did not allow Israel to make amendments to the agreement.”

Under former premier Netanyahu, Israel fought the original 2015 agreement in the court of public opinion and in a particularly contentious direct address by Netanyahu to the US Congress, coordinated without White House involvement. The US pulled out of the agreement under former president Donald Trump in 2018, and under Biden has been negotiating a return for months.

Lapid and former prime minister Naftali Bennett — who is currently abroad on vacation – moved the debate into private channels, attempting to avoid the relationship fallout that occurred between Israel and the Obama administration.

“In the past year, Lapid and [Defense Minister Benny Gantz] completely abandoned the public struggle against the Iran nuclear deal,” Netanyahu says in a statement. “For 12 years, we fought this deal with determination and even caused the US to withdraw from it. But in their only year in power, Lapid and Gantz let their guard down and enabled the US and Iran to reach a nuclear deal that endangers our future.”

He accuses Lapid of failing to publicly challenge these efforts in Congress, in the UN or in foreign media, and of only “waking up” too late, after major progress was made in the talks.

He claims as an example of the government’s “helplessness” that Bennett, currently in charge of Iran-related matters, “is currently vacationing in Italy, on the eve of the deal’s signing, and in an area without reception.”

Netanyahu has also confirmed he will attend a routine security briefing with Lapid tomorrow at 5 p.m. For most of his tenure as opposition chief, he has refused to personally take part in the periodical briefings.

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