Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Yair Lapid Warns Netanyahu To Take More Cautious Tone With U.S. on Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should take the heat out of his row with U.S. President Barack Obama, his top coalition partner said on Tuesday, warning that the spat over Iran was not helping Israel.

“I think we have to lower the flames with the Americans,” said Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who heads the second largest party in the government. “This confrontation isn’t good and it also doesn’t serve our goal,” he told Army radio.

Relations between Israel and Washington, traditionally the closest of allies, have soured over the past month, with Netanyahu openly criticizing Obama for backing a world powers’ deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear activities.

Some analysts and commentators have said the dispute has pushed relations between the two countries to their worst level in more than 20 years, causing unease in Israel which relies heavily on military and diplomatic support from Washington.

Lapid said he agreed the Iran interim accord was not good, backing the generally held view in Israel that it let Tehran off the hook just as economic sanctions were hurting, but said Netanyahu needed to air his frustrations in private.

“This is the best way to do it and so it has always been. You sit behind closed doors and speak about it quietly,” he said, echoing comments made by opposition politicians.

Israel fears Iran is seeking to develop nuclear arms, something Tehran denies, and has threatened to attack the Islamist republic unless the atomic programme is dismantled.

An opinion poll published late Monday by the Tel Aviv University-Israel Democracy Institute Peace Index, showed that 77 percent of Israelis do not believe that the world power deal will lead to the end of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.

Seventy-one percent of Israelis thought the United States was still their closest ally, although 49 percent said Israel needed to find new partners to reduce their dependence on Washington.

INNER CIRCLE

U.S. officials have sought to calm Israeli nerves, saying they will push for a comprehensive deal with the Iranians at the next round of negotiations, repeating past pledges that they will not let Tehran develop an atomic bomb.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was due to arrive in Israel on Wednesday for yet another round of talks centred on Iran and also faltering Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

A diplomatic source said Kerry and Netanyahu had a furious discussion at their last meeting in Israel on Nov. 8, with advisers from both sides asked to leave the room.

There is little sign that the conversation will be much warmer this time around.

At least two local newspapers published articles on Tuesday quoting Israeli officials lambasting Obama’s inner circle and defending Netanyahu’s outspoken handling of the Iran issue.

Israel Hayom daily, which is very close to Netanyahu’s rightist political camp, quoted an official in the prime minister’s office comparing the current situation with the 1930s, when Jews warned of the risked posed by Nazi Germany.

“Seventy-five years ago, when there was no (Israeli) state, the Jews tried to talk with American President Roosevelt behind closed doors, and that did not really help the Jews of Europe,” the unnamed official said.

Netanyahu has compared the showdown with Iran to the build up to World War Two, with some of his supporters putting the recent Geneva accord on a par with the 1938 Munich Agreement, when Britain and France tried to avoid conflict with Germany.

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.