The world must act to stop the evil of Iran, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a trilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Washington on Wednesday.
“Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment, in any way,” Lapid stated. “That is not only our right, it is also our responsibility. Iran has publicly stated it wants to wipe us out; we have no intention of letting that happen.”
Lapid warned that the Iranians are “dragging their heels” in order to enrich uranium and develop its ballistic missile program while the world waits for them to return to negotiations.
“Secretary of State Blinken and I are sons of Holocaust survivors. We know there are moments when nations must use force to protect the world from evil. If a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon, we must act. We must make clear that the civilized world won’t allow it,” he said.
If diplomacy between world powers and Iran fails, “other options will be on the table,” Lapid said.
“When we say other options, I think everyone understands here, in Israel, in the Emirates and in Tehran, what it means,” Lapid added.
Those “other options” were discussed in the meeting between Lapid and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Tuesday in the bilateral meeting with Blinken and the trilateral meeting, the foreign minister said.
Blinken said he and the foreign ministers are “united in the proposition that Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon.”
The US believes that diplomacy is the best way to make that happen and is prepared to return to the 2015 nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – with Iran, but, Blinken said, “What we are seeing – or more accurately, not seeing – from Tehran suggests that they’re not.”
“Time is running short, because as we’ve also had the opportunity to discuss, we are getting closer to a point at which returning to compliance with the JCPOA will not recapture the benefits of the JCPOA, because Iran is using this time to advance its program…. With every day of refusal to engage in good faith, the runway gets shorter,” he said.
The trilateral meeting was held to commemorate a year since the signing of the Abraham Accords, by which Israel established diplomatic relations with the UAE and Bahrain, and later Morocco and Sudan, which are still in progress.
Blinken said that “Abraham in the Bible was known to have the temerity to argue with God, to ask ‘Why?’ – or more accurately ‘Why not?’
“Israel and the UAE asked ‘Why not?’ and now they are demonstrating every single day why it was so important for the countries to come together, work together, join together and create more opportunity for their peoples,” Blinken said.
Blinken said the three countries had launched two new working groups, the first on religious coexistence and the second on water and energy.
“This is a moment of rising antisemitism and rising Islamophobia and we want Israel and the UAE to build tolerance and ensure that all religious groups can worship in their own way,” Blinken said.
Lapid said, “Today, there are leaders in the Middle East who believe we can change history together.”
He and bin Zayed have become friends, he said, because they share values of moderation, religious tolerance and fighting terrorism and radicalization, and they have a partnership based on economics, progress and technology.
Lapid said that Israel wants to expand the Abraham Accords to more countries, but is also focused on making sure the existing agreements are successful.
Bin Zayed thanked the US for embracing the UAE and Israel, showing that it supports “changing the narrative in the region.
“I’m sure this will have a further effect in the region, and I’m sure the more successful the UAE-Israel relationship, it will not only encourage the region, but will also encourage the Israeli people and Palestinian people that this works,” he stated.
The UAE-Israel relationship should not only be celebrated, but should be advanced with new venues of cooperation, bin Zayed said, referring to an agreement on climate change he and Lapid signed that day.
Bin Zayed said Lapid invited him to Israel, and he plans to visit soon.
As for the Palestinians, Blinken said the US is committed to “advancing equal measures of dignity and freedom” for Israelis and Palestinians, as well as working toward a two-state solution.
As such, Blinken said the Biden administration “will be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening those ties with the Palestinians.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Lapid oppose opening a consulate for Palestinians on Israeli sovereign territory in Jerusalem, as the Biden administration has said it sought to do.
Lapid briefly mentioned the Palestinians in his remarks, quoting former US president John F. Kennedy, saying, “All people are entitled to a decent way of life.
“This includes of course the Palestinians,” Lapid said. “Our goal is to work with the Palestinian Authority to ensure that every child has that opportunity.”
Bin Zayed said he was “encouraged” by meetings between Israeli ministers and their PA counterparts in recent weeks.
The Israeli government is split on how best to approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Bennett opposing a two-state solution, while Lapid has supported it.
But Lapid’s visions of the borders of those two states differ from those envisioned by the Biden administration, which has not advanced a peace plan.
Lapid met with US Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday.
Lapid said Harris is one of Israel’s “best friends” in Washington, just weeks after she failed to push back at a university student who accused Israel of “ethnic genocide” against the Palestinians.
“We can always count on you in a difficult moment,” Lapid said, adding that this friendship is based on shared values.
“Even when we have differences, I know that our goal is common to see Israel strong and secure and thriving,” he said.
Harris recalled that the two of them had last met in 2017 when she visited Israel.
She told Lapid that the US is committed to ensuring the “security of the people of Israel.”
She did not mention the Palestinians. Lapid, in turn, also did not speak of the Palestinians, but he did not mention Palestinian statehood.
“We all believe, as you said, that the Palestinians are entitled to have a quality of life, an economy and education and hope,” Lapid said.
Lapid also met with Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday.
He is expected to meet with AIPAC’s leadership on Thursday, and with the Democratic Majority for Israel, whose president, Mark Mellman, has been political strategist for Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party for the past decade.