Speaking at a joint press conference in Washington, DC with his UAE and US counterparts on Wednesday, Lapid said the “civilized world” should make it clear that Iran will not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.
” Secretary of State [Antony] Blinken and I are sons of Holocaust survivors; we know there are times when nations must use force to protect the world from evil, ”Lapid said.
Lapid’s remarks came at a time when indirect talks between Washington and Tehran to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are on hiatus, with the Biden administration calling for negotiations to be resumed as soon as possible.
The multilateral agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saw Iran cut back its nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions on its economy.
Lapid said the Iranians will “run a bomb” if they don’t believe the world is serious about stopping them. “Israel reserves the right to act at any time in any way,” he said. “It’s not just our right; it is also our responsibility.
Iranian officials deny that the country is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Critics of Israel often point out that the country is suspected of having its own secret nuclear arsenal and that unlike Iran, Israel is not a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
On Wednesday, Blinken reiterated the US administration’s support for a “diplomatic channel” to resolve concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, but said Tehran’s lack of response to Washington’s calls for talks was not not encouraging.
“It takes two to engage in diplomacy,” Blinken said, warning that time is running out to revive the deal. “We are approaching a point where the return to compliance with the JCPOA will not per se reap the benefits of the JCPOA,” he added.
Former US President Donald Trump called off the nuclear deal in 2018 as part of his “maximum pressure” strategy against Iran, under which the United States piled sanctions on the country. In response, the Iranian government has pushed its nuclear program beyond the limits set by the agreement.
The Biden administration has said it is seeking to restore the deal, but six rounds of talks in Vienna have failed to revive it. Negotiations have been on hiatus since June with the election of conservative Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
For weeks, the Biden administration has raised the prospect of “other options” to address Iran’s nuclear program, without specifying what they are. On Wednesday, Blinken said the United States and its partners would examine “all options to meet the challenge posed by Iran.”
“To be very clear, Israel has the right to defend itself, and we strongly support this proposal,” Blinken said in response to a question about Israel’s position towards Iran.
Iran blamed Israel for a campaign of sabotage against its nuclear program, including cyber attacks and the assassination of nuclear scientists.
Wednesday’s joint press conference between top diplomats from the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Israel came shortly after the first anniversary of the normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab states.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced that he would soon be visiting Israel at Lapid’s invitation, calling his Israeli counterpart “a friend and a partner.”
The UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan normalized relations with Israel last year in what the Trump administration, which helped negotiate the accords, called the Abraham Accords.
The agreements angered the Palestinian leadership, who last year called the normalization effort a “stab in the back” to the Palestinian cause.
On Wednesday, Blinken reaffirmed Washington’s support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, citing US President Joe Biden as saying that Israelis and Palestinians “deserve to live in safety and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity. [and] democracy “.
While the Biden administration has promoted the two-state solution, its Israeli allies have explicitly rejected the possibility of allowing the creation of a Palestinian state.
During a joint press conference with Angela Merkel earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett rejected the German Chancellor’s call for Palestinians to “live in safety” in their own state.
“Based on our experience, the meaning of a Palestinian state means that it will most likely be established a terrorist state, about seven minutes from my house and almost any point in Israel,” Bennett said.
Israel has also expressed opposition to the Biden administration’s plan to reopen the US consulate for Palestinians in East Jerusalem which was closed by Trump. But nearly nine months after Biden’s stint in the White House, he hasn’t established a diplomatic post.
On Wednesday, Blinken said the United States remains committed to the plan. “We will go ahead with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening these ties with the Palestinians,” he told reporters.
Rosiland Jordan of Al Jazeera, reporting from the State Department, said Blinken had not provided a timeline for the move, however. “There is no fixed timetable on this subject, it is really a political question … for the government of Naftali Bennett, the Israeli Prime Minister”, she declared.