JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with White House leaders on Tuesday during his first official visit to Washington and urged them to act against Iran’s nuclear program.
“It's true that the center of our visit is the Iranian nuclear program,” Lapid told reporters before speaking privately with Vice President Kamala Harris.
Israeli leaders and the Biden administration agree on most issues regarding Israel’s security, but disagree on how to tackle the growing Iranian threat. The US argues that while the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal isn’t perfect, it’s the best tool they have to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Biden says he wants to return to the deal, make it “longer and stronger,” and use it as a basis to address broader issues with Tehran, including Iran’s use of ballistic missiles.
Israel argues that if the US re-enters the agreement in its current version, Iran will simply wait until the deal’s limits on its nuclear program expire before ramping up its development of a weapon. Because of this, Israel believes Iran has no incentive to sign a “longer and stronger” nuclear deal.
Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.
Lapid told Harris that despite these differences, “I know that our goal is common, which is to see Israel strong, secure and thriving.”
Earlier in the day, Lapid met with US President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Lapid told Sullivan in no uncertain terms that Iran is “becoming a nuclear threshold state.”
Iran abandoned its commitments to the nuclear deal and increased its enrichment of uranium after Former President Donald Trump vacated the agreement in 2018. Tehran argued that if Washington won’t keep the deal, neither will Iran.
Lapid’s office said he explained to Sullivan “the need for an alternative plan” to the Iran nuclear deal. Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Washington last month, and said if negotiations with Iran fail, “we’re ready to turn to other options.”
Pelosi also reaffirmed America’s commitment to Israel’s security.
“It is a privilege to talk about the importance of the US-Israel bond,” she said, speaking to reporters. “It is one that is based on our mutual security. It is based on our mutual values and it is, again, something that that is a source of pride to all of us in the Congress who've worked on this. It has always been its support for Israel, has always been bipartisan in the Congress of the United States, and it continues to be so.”
Last month, several House Democrat lawmakers blocked funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system during a vote to extend the debt limit. The funding was overwhelmingly supported by Democratic lawmakers and later restored in a separate bill, but Republican critics say it exposed division within the Democratic party towards the State of Israel.
While Lapid was in Washington, Israel’s prime minister urged the United Nations Security Council to hold Iran accountable for its escalating nuclear program.
“I expect the global powers to hold them accountable, bring them to the UN Security Council, hold Iran accountable for it,” Bennett said while speaking at a conference in Jerusalem. “That would be the