WASHINGTON (JTA) – Yair Lapid got what he wanted from his visit to Washington: the word âeveryoneâ instead of âotherâ.
During Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s first meeting with US President Joe Biden in August, Bennett was pleased with what he heard: the US president, despite his desire to join the Iran nuclear deal, said that if Iran does not engage in good faith diplomacy with the nations involved in the deal, the United States will consider “other options” to get Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.
It was a sign that Israel and America’s Democrats, long distant in their views on how best to contain Iran, were drawing closer.
Lapid, during his official trip as foreign minister to Washington, took things even further.
He watched US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday declare that “all options were on the table if Iran did not engage in good faith to negotiate the return of the United States to the nuclear deal.”
It was one of those moments of blinking and lack of diplomacy, but it carried a lot of weight. According to insiders involved in the matter, the “other options” can be seen as referring to increased sanctions or other forms of non-military pressure. âEach optionâ means that military action can also be considered.
“We will examine all options to meet the challenge posed by Iran,” Blinken said at a press conference called to announce initiatives that would advance the Abraham’s Accords, the normalization accords between Israel and four nations. Arabs. “We continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to achieve this, but it takes two to engage in diplomacy, and we didn’t – we didn’t see the part. Iran’s willingness to do so at this point. “
Blinken made the statement on the eighth floor of the State Department, flanked by Lapid and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Foreign ministers were together to announce new initiatives of the Abrahamic Accords, but the symbolism of Blinken’s stronger language in the company of two of the Middle Eastern nations most strongly resenting the threat from Iran was undeniable. .
A senior Israeli official told reporters after the meetings that the Israeli and US delegations discussed Iran at length behind closed doors. “While there may not have been a deal, there was the discussion of options that had not been on the table before,” said the official, who spoke anonymously due to the sensitivity of the information.
Along with Bennett, Lapid spearheaded efforts to mend Israel’s ties with the Democratic Party, which were eroded during the 12 years that Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister. Netanyahu was hostile to that half of American politics, towards which the clear majority of American Jews are oriented.
Netanyahu accused Bennett and Lapid of showing weakness by failing more firmly to oppose the Biden administration’s efforts to reinstate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which former US President Donald Trump left in 2018 at the time. Netanyahu asks.
Bennett and Lapid’s strategy appeared to pay off during Lapid’s 48 hours in the U.S. capital this week. The Biden administration, frustrated with the new hard-line Iranian government elected this summer, is moving closer to Israel’s position, a development that has taken place without tension.
Blinken’s language on Iran was harsher than it has been since US President Joe Biden kept his promise to seek reinstatement of 2015 sanctions relief for the known nuclear dismantling deal. under the name of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Biden sees this as the best option to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“Despite the fact that we have made it clear over the past nine months that we are ready to return to full compliance with the JCPOA if Iran does the same, which we are seeing – or more accurately not seeing from Tehran now – suggests they aren’t, “Blinken said.” I’m not going to put a specific date on it, but with each passing day and Iran’s refusal to engage in good faith, the trail gets shorter. “
Lapid reaped further dividends from his visit. The Biden administration has shown itself fully committed to cultivating the Abrahamic Accords, one of the few areas of agreement it has with the Trump administration, which negotiated the accords.
Blinken at the press conference announced the launch of two task forces comprising Israeli, American and Emirati officials, one tackling religious intolerance and the other encouraging cooperation on water and the energy.
Lapid also met with World Bank officials to discuss plans to seek investors for infrastructure projects in the Gaza Strip as a way to raise living standards in the poverty-stricken enclave, while limiting the influence of Hamas, the terrorist group controlling the gang with which Israel periodically carries out wars. The United Arab Emirates would probably also play a role in investments.
Lapid, who is slated to become Prime Minister of Israel in 2023, met with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, on Tuesday. In a brief appearance for reporters, Pelosi highlighted bipartisan support for Israel, a sharp rejection of calls by progressives within his party to cut funding to the country.
On the US side, Blinken said the Biden administration remains committed to relaunching the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Biden, he said at the press conference, was “clear that a two-state solution is the best way to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable, sovereign and democratic Palestinian state â. Bennett said a Palestinian state would not arise under his watch, while Lapid was less clear on the issue.
Blinken did not refrain from mentioning points of contention, including the US plan to reopen a consulate dedicated to Palestinians in Jerusalem, replacing one closed by the Trump administration.
“We will go ahead with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening these ties with the Palestinians,” Blinken said, although the Israeli government officially opposes it.
State Department statements on the meetings also strongly indicated that China was a topic of discussion with Lapid. The Biden administration, like the Trump administration before it, opposes the extent of Israel’s commercial ties with the United States’ most formidable rival on the international stage.
Lapid is due to meet with leaders of Jewish organizations in Washington on Thursday before he returns to Israel. He is expected to argue to them that he wants to mend the relationship overlooked by Netanyahu, who revolved around evangelical Christians as a more natural pro-Israel base.