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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.

Go deeper: Netanyahu is out as new Israeli government survives confidence vote

Go deeper

Jul 28, 2021 - World

Scoop: Israel weighs a return to UNESCO

Jerusalem’s Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

The Israeli government is weighing rejoining the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which Israel left in 2019 together with the U.S., Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: An Israeli return to UNESCO, which promotes the preservation of cultural sites around the world and holds educational programs, could help pave the way for the Biden administration to rejoin the organization — and help fend off criticism from Republicans.

Jul 28, 2021 - World

U.S. warns Iran's new government it won't get a better nuclear deal

Ebrahim Raisi. Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

With the new Iranian government about to take office, U.S. officials are stressing that Iran won't win more concessions by attempting to renegotiate the understandings reached in Vienna.

State of play: The U.S. hoped an agreement on returning to the 2015 nuclear deal would be reached before hardliner Ebrahim Raisi took office. But after six rounds of talks, the negotiations were suspended by the Iranians until the new government can form its own negotiating team.

Jul 28, 2021 - World

White House raised NSO spyware concerns with Israel

Photo: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty

The White House raised concerns with Israeli officials about reports that spyware from Israeli firm NSO was used to spy on journalists, human rights activists and opposition figures in several countries around the world, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government gave NSO export licenses to sell its Pegasus spyware to several countries. Media reports about abuse of the technology have already created uproar in Congress and in several European countries, and Israel fears a possible diplomatic crisis.