According to the latest polls, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid is Israel’s most liked politician after the Prime Minister. In this exclusive interview with Fathom, he talks about Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal, prospects for restarting peace talks, and why he believes centrist politics still holds the key to Israel’s future security as a Jewish and democratic state.
Fathom: What are your thoughts on the JCPOA nuclear agreement and US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it?
Yair Lapid: I believed the JCPOA was a bad agreement and needed to be fixed. But I thought it was worth giving ourselves another chance to try to recreate the international coalition that pressured Iran to negotiate in the first place. If you listen to what French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson were saying during their trips to the US, there was a feeling that an opening exists to create to more comprehensive agreement which will deal with Iran’s ballistic missile programme, its support for the proliferation of terrorism and eliminate the sunset provisions of the JCPOA. We need to make sure that the Iranians will never be able to return to a nuclear weapons programme. I thought it would have been good to give ourselves six months at most to see if there was a possibility of a coalition. But I was not disappointed in what Trump did because it was better than choosing to do nothing. If you cannot build a coalition then you have to go unilaterally and work to convince players to join afterwards.
Nobody – including the Americans – has said Iran is breaching the JCPOA at the moment, but if you look at the kind of lies and deceit from before, as well as the secret Iranian nuclear archives Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented, you understand they are going to lie and cheat at the first opportunity and the fact there is such a weak agreement relating to supervision is a huge problem.
During the pre-JCPOA period the sanctions were working and this is part of the reason why Trump withdrew, to renew pressure on the Iranian regime to talk and to negotiate a new agreement. Right now the Iranians are vulnerable to sanctions. Their currency, the rial is trading on approximately 40,000 to $1 on the official market (and around 60,000 to $1 on the black market). Tehran was also using the sanctions relief money to build an army in Syria than helping their own people.
The big question will be how to get to a new agreement and clearly the president feels the best way is to start unilaterally, believing in the power of conviction. READ MORE.