Jun 14, 2021 - World

New Israeli foreign minister stresses need to repair ties with Democrats

Yair Lapid. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a ceremony on his first day in office on Monday that the new government must repair Israel's relationship with the Democratic Party, which he said had badly deteriorated during Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister.

What he's saying: "The previous government took a bad and lightheaded bet to focus only on the Republican Party and abandon Israel’s bipartisan status in America," said Lapid, who is also the alternate prime minister and heads the biggest faction in the new coalition. He called Netanyahu's behavior toward the democrats "disgraceful and dangerous."

  • "The Republicans are important to us, but not only them," Lapid added. "We find ourselves with a Democratic White House and a Democratic Congress. Those Democrats are angry at us, and we need to change that."

The backstory: Netanyahu publicly feuded with Barack Obama over the Iran nuclear deal, wholeheartedly embraced Donald Trump, and has recently been emphasizing his willingness to break with President Biden on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

  • Israel's new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, takes similar stances to Netanyahu on both of those issues, but he's stressed the need for good relations with Biden.
  • After their new government was sworn in, Bennett spoke with Biden and Lapid spoke with Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
  • Lapid is expected to visit Washington in the coming weeks for talks with Blinken and other Biden administration officials.

The big picture: Lapid said in his speech that Israel has to prepare for a U.S. return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

  • He said it was a bad deal but that Israel could have more influence on the outcome by having a different kind of dialogue with the Biden administration than Netanyahu did with Obama.

Worth noting: Lapid also stressed that the Israeli government needs to improve its relationship with the Jewish community in the U.S.

  • He praised Jordan’s King Abdullah II, with whom Netanyahu had been clashing, and said Israel must improve its relationship with Jordan.
  • On the Palestinian issue, Lapid said he doesn’t see a possible breakthrough toward a peace deal but said Israel needs to improve the dialogue with the Palestinians and the situation on the ground.

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