In Paris, Lapid urges response to Iranian nuclear violations, warns Hezbollah

PARIS — Standing beside French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Prime Minister Yair Lapid urged the world to respond to Iranian violations of the 2015 nuclear deal and warned Israel would not allow Hezbollah attacks to go unanswered.

“Hezbollah has more than 100,000 rockets in Lebanon, aimed at Israel,” Lapid said in English. “It tries to attack us with Iranian rockets and UAVs.”

“Israel will not sit back and do nothing, given these repeated attacks,” Lapid pledged.

Days after Israel intercepted Hezbollah UAVs heading for gas rigs off its coast, Lapid called Hezbollah “a terrorist organization that threatens Lebanon’s stability, violates its sovereignty, pushes it towards a dangerous escalation with Israel, and harms the national interests of Lebanon.”

Turning to the renewed talks about Iran’s nuclear program, Lapid said that Israel and France might have disagreements about a potential agreement, “but we do not disagree on the facts.”

“The facts are that Iran is violating the agreement and continues to develop its nuclear program,” said Lapid. “Iran is hiding information from the world, it is enriching uranium beyond the level it is allowed to and it has removed cameras from its nuclear sites.”

Prime Minister Yair Lapid (R) embraces French President Emmanuel Macron at a press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 5, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

“Given all this, the world must respond,” Lapid stressed.

Lapid referenced a Macron address in 2018, in which the French leader spoke about the need for a new deal with Iran shortly before the Trump administration pulled out of the JCPOA. The premier called for “a deal that is more efficient and better defined, a deal with no expiration date, a deal with coordinated international pressure that would prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state.”

As he often does when speaking to European leaders, Lapid stressed the values ​​that France and Israel share, saying that both countries have a common understanding “that values ​​are worth fighting for.”

“This past year, with the war in Ukraine the terrorism from Iran, we are reminded that not only does democracy protect us, but we must also protect democracy,” said Lapid. “Sometimes there is no choice but to use the force of war to protect peace.”

Lapid arrived at the palace mid-afternoon on Tuesday, where he was greeted with a warm embrace by Macron. The two centrist leaders chat regularly on WhatsApp and have a friendship dating back several years. Following their public remarks, Lapid and Macron were slated to sit down for a closed-door meeting.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, on November 30, 2021. (MFA/Quentin Crestinu)

Despite the enthusiastic welcome, deep policy disagreements were evident in the leaders’ public statements.

Macron called the JCPOA nuclear deal “a good agreement” that must be defended. He also spoke at some length about the importance of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, saying that Lapid can be a “historical figure” who brings about an end to the conflict.

Macron, speaking in French, called for a deal that recognizes Palestinians’ “legitimate aspirations” and emphasized that there is “no alternative to a return to a political dialogue.”

Macron also expressed France’s displeasure with Iran, underscoring the threat of the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program and its destabilizing activities in the region, saying that French and European security were at stake.

Before departing for Paris Tuesday morning, Lapid stressed to Israeli reporters that Iran would be the most pressing issue up for discussion.

“It’s important that our opinion against this dangerous agreement and against Iran’s organizing and nuclearization has been heard at this time,” Lapid said at the airport. “It’s also important that the international community knows that on the Iranian nuclear issue, Israeli society stands together — as one body, with one position, presenting a unified position to the international community.”

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