As Lapid Heads to Germany, Official Says Iran Deal Unlikely Before U.S. Midterm Elections

Israel is working behind the scenes to get members of the agreement to support its positions in what could be the final months of negotiations

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on his way to Berlin last week.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on his way to Berlin last week.Credit: Kobi Gideon, GPO
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Yair Lapid landed in Germany on Sunday where he is expected to discuss ongoing nuclear talks with Iran, to which Germany is a partner.

Lapid will be meeting with Germany's chancellor, president, and foreign minister, while Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is expected to meet with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday and brief the Security Council on both the Iranian issue and the Abraham Accords.

Ahead of Lapid's departure on Sunday, an Israeli diplomatic official said that despite major disputes between Iran and Western powers, Israel believes the agreement with Iran has not been taken off the agenda completely.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid arrives in Germany, accompanied by Holocaust survivor Shoshana Trister, on Sunday.Credit: Jonathan Lis

Germany, France and Britain released a joint statement on Saturday, which doubted Iran’s intentions with regard to the agreement and urged it to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency into the open investigations against it.

The official added that he believes that the agreement might only come to fruition after the midterm election in the United States in November. Israel is now working, mainly behind the scenes, with senators and Congress members in an attempt to persuade them to support its positions on the matter.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid lands in Berlin on Sunday.Credit: Kobi Gideon, GPO

“We believe that there is a better agreement than this one,” the official said adding that if the signing of the agreement is postponed until after the midterms, opponents of the agreement might be able to achieve a majority in Congress and make it more difficult for the U.S. administration to approve it. “It’s too early to know what will happen in the midterms. We will work well with any make-up,” he said.

While intelligence reports indicate that Iran’s uranium enrichment efforts could allow it to reach a sufficient quantity to manufacture one nuclear bomb within a few weeks, Israel believes that Iran does not want to move ahead to this stage and that it doesn’t have the means to manufacture and use a nuclear bomb.

The official said that although Iran is weeks away from the required amount of uranium to produce a nuclear bomb, it “is lacking a great deal to reach a nuclear weapon.” In the end, he said, “Iran wants economic relief,” to lift sanctions and close the open investigations against it.

"There must be a credible threat against Iran that would prevent them from a nuclear breakthrough and would spur it to negotiate on a better agreement," the official argued. He continued, saying Iran must be compelled to sign a deal.

The Natanz nuclear facility in Iran.Credit: Reuters

“The important thing is the position the West presents and how much pressure it is willing to exert. In the realm of pressure there are very many things that can be done to cause Iran to understand that time is not in its favor. It will take time, it’s not something that will take weeks.”

The agreement, as it was set on the table, is not enough for Iran, which "for us this is a big problem, and therefore we continue to struggle and persuade," the official said.

The American government has made clear that contrary to the Iranian demand, it does not intend to give Iran guarantees that it will not re-impose major sanctions if it decides once again to pull out of the agreement, according to the official. Additionally, the U.S. will not press the IAEA to close the open investigations against Iran, as Tehran has demanded, which is not enough for Iran's leader, Ali Khamenei, the official said.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, entering the Coburg Palais during the final round of nuclear talks in August.Credit: ALEX HALADA - AFP

The diplomatic official spoke at length about the status of the negotiations over the nuclear agreement, saying its advantages are only short term, and the money and legitimacy Iran would later receive will become an issue. In order to prevent from having to return to negotiations, the validity of the clauses should be extended the diplomat added.

During Lapid's visit to Germany he is expected to travel, together with the chancellor and a group of Holocaust survivors from Israel, to Wannsee Villa, where the Nazi leadership planned the annihilation of Europe’s Jews. There, Lapid will declare an exchange program of German and Israeli teens, based on an agreement reached by the two countries.

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