Lapid to U.S.: Not walking away from Iran nuclear talks shows "weakness"
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid sent a message to the White House on Thursday that the EU draft nuclear agreement being discussed with Iran goes beyond the 2015 nuclear deal and isn’t in line with the Biden administration’s own red lines, a senior Israeli official said in a briefing to reporters.
What he's saying: “In the current situation, the time has come to walk away from the table. Anything else sends a message of weakness to Iran," Lapid said in a meeting with Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East and North Africa subcommittee, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides on Thursday, per the official.
- "Now is the time to sit and talk about what to do going forward in order to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Lapid added.
Driving the news: Iran on Monday gave its response to the EU draft agreement, which was described as a "final" offer.
- The Iranians didn’t say yes to the draft and gave several additional requests mainly on the issue of getting more guarantees if the U.S. were to again leave the agreement.
The big picture: The senior Israeli official said Lapid told Deutch and Nides the EU draft agreement includes more concessions for Iran than the original 2015 nuclear deal and doesn’t abide by the principles which the Biden administration itself committed to.
- White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said later Thursday that reports "that we have accepted or are considering new concessions to Iran as part of reentering the 2015 nuclear deal are categorically false."
Speaking to Duetch and Nides, Lapid specifically mentioned a clause he said was included in the draft agreement that says that the U.S. and the other world powers that are party to the agreement will support closing the ongoing UN investigations against Iran’s suspicious nuclear activities if the international atomic energy agency concludes that Iran gave sufficient explanations.
- He said that the IAEA report published last May stated that Iran isn’t providing credible explanations regarding the open investigations into uranium particles found in several undeclared sites in the country. “This should raise a red flag for the international community," Lapid said, per the official.
- The prime minister also said Israel isn’t bound by any nuclear deal and will do whatever is necessary to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran as well as to stop Tehran from utilizing its terror proxies in the region. “The U.S. knows and recognizes this," Lapid said, according to the Israeli official.
Between the lines: Some in the Israeli government suspect that President Biden and other top U.S. officials were not fully briefed on the concessions in the new EU draft, or signed off on them before the draft was sent to the Iranian government, according to another Israeli official.
- State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday the U.S. had received Iran’s comments via the EU.
- “We are studying them. We are engaged in consultations with the EU as well as with our European allies on the way ahead," Price said.
What’s next: Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata will travel to Washington next week for talks with his White House counterpart Jake Sullivan about the negotiations with Iran.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with the White House National Security Council comment.