Prime Minister Yair Lapid and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu sparred on Monday after the premier delivered a security briefing to his predecessor on the emerging nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the meeting focused on the Iran deal and “the diplomatic and defense activities that Israel is leading to influence the issue,” along with other unspecified national security issues.
“In matters of national security, there is no opposition or coalition in Israel. Israel is strong and will act in unity to protect its security interests against those who try to harm us,” Lapid said in comments provided by the PMO.
Lapid’s military secretary, Avi Gil, also participated in the meeting.
Netanyahu spoke to the press after the briefing, saying he was “more worried after the meeting than before.”
He accused Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz of “falling asleep on the job” over the past year and said they should be lobbying the US Congress and speaking out in the American media.
“I have a clear message for the ayatollahs in Tehran: On November 1, we’ll bring strong and decisive leadership to Israel that will ensure that with or without a deal, they will never have nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said, referring to Israel’s upcoming Knesset elections.
Still, he vowed support for any “resolute” move against Iran made by the current caretaker government.
Hitting back, Lapid’s Yesh Atid party accused Netanyahu of causing “tremendous damage” as prime minister.
“Along with the tremendous damage he caused during his tenure, the opposition leader continues to sabotage and endanger the security of Israeli citizens. While Netanyahu continues to produce and direct tone-deaf videos, the Israeli government led by Lapid will do everything to guard national security interests,” the party said on Twitter.
In a later statement, Lapid said he didn’t want to tussle with Netanyahu over Israel’s position on a renewed Iran nuclear deal, warning that such squabbling harmed Israel’s security.
“There is great importance in a united Israeli stance against the Iranian effort to obtain a nuclear weapon. I call on the opposition leader and everyone not to let political considerations harm our national security,” Lapid said.
On Sunday, briefing reporters, Lapid had said: “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.”
Gantz also chimed in with a post on Twitter, saying Israel’s national security “need to be kept above the political debate of an election period.”
“Iran’s attempt to break out to a nuclear bomb does not distinguish between one government or another. Faced with the Iranian threat, we must remain united and focused on the goal,” he said.
The offices of Lapid and Netanyahu were also said to have been at odds on whether to put out a photograph from the meeting.
According to Hebrew-language media reports, Lapid’s office wanted to release a photo of the two, arguing it would project Israeli unity to the world, while Netanyahu’s office claimed the premier was seeking to use the image for political reasons.
Ultimately, Lapid’s office released a photo of the meeting. Netanyahu’s office did not immediately issue a photo.
Lapid and Netanyahu released competing photos from another recent security meeting, the first such meeting the opposition chief had attended since losing the premiership over a year ago.
Netanyahu’s office issued a picture showing them smiling, while Lapid’s issued one showing them looking more serious.
While the law dictates that the opposition leader must receive security updates from the prime minister — a procedure that has been followed for years — Netanyahu had refused to comply with the protocol over the past year, as he regularly railed against the legitimacy of the outgoing coalition government led by Naftali Bennett and then Lapid.