In Germany, Israel’s Lapid Tries To Influence Pending Iran Nuclear Agreement
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, left, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meet in Berlin on September 12, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

In Germany, Israel’s Lapid Tries To Influence Pending Iran Nuclear Agreement

The Israeli prime minister shared what he called “sensitive” Israeli intelligence material on Iran with German officials

Iran’s nuclear program was at the top of Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s agenda as made his first official visit to Germany on Monday. Lapid met with senior German officials, including President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

“This is a period of historic change. Deepening our strategic partnership helps us seize opportunities and confront shared challenges,” Lapid tweeted after meeting Baerbock.

Lapid’s visit comes as negotiations between Iran and the world powers over reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement continue.

Israel considers Iran its arch enemy and has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The attempt to revive the agreement that the United States left in 2018 has had Israel in a defensive, often tense, position.

Before heading to Berlin, Lapid led a Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem during which he stated his goals for his visit to Germany, which included “coordinating positions on the nuclear issue.”

He also said that details on a strategic, economic and security cooperation document between the two countries would be finalized during his visit.

The Israeli leader said his country is “conducting a successful diplomatic campaign to stop the nuclear agreement and prevent the lifting of sanctions on Iran.”

Israel believes Iran will take advantage of any sanctions relief to funnel funds to strengthen its proxies in the region. Particularly worrisome for Israel are Hizbullah on its border with Lebanon, and Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

Israel is trying hard to influence the details of the agreement, through Germany and Europe as a whole

Since Germany is part of the European Union, its commitment to reaching a deal with Iran might be stronger than Israel desires. However, Israel would still like to make its mark on the final draft document.

“The devil is in the details,” Professor Shlomo Shpiro, director of the Europa Institute at Bar-Ilan University, told The Media Line. “For Israel, it is important that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections continue. It also wants to secure the order of the deal, the timing of when sanctions will be lifted.”

“Israel is trying hard to influence the details of the agreement, through Germany and Europe as a whole,” he added.

Over the weekend, just before the visit, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, known as the E3 countries, issued a joint statement raising “serious doubts on Iranian intentions and commitment to a successful outcome” of the negotiations. For Israel and Lapid it was a diplomatic victory, the extent of which is not clear yet.

Israel has been working behind the scenes in order to garner support for a tougher stance on Iran. During his meetings in Berlin, Lapid shared what he called “sensitive” Israeli intelligence material on Iran.

After their meeting, the chancellor said he was not expecting an agreement with Iran any time soon.

Reports from the negotiations have varied. If a few weeks ago it was believed an agreement was close, there now seems to be a major gap between the sides. Iran wants the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to stop its investigation of traces of nuclear material found in several undeclared nuclear sites in the country. The E3 have refused this call.

After meeting with Scholz, Lapid alluded to a deal under which Israel would be supplying Germany with air defense technology. The Germans have requested to purchase Israel’s Arrow-3 anti-missile system.

“This will probably take years of negotiations between political levels and the defense establishments of both Germany and Israel,” according to Shpiro.

According to German media, the deal is estimated at two billion euros.

Israel will be looking to guarantee its technologies do not leak to unwanted parties. Germany will want agreement from other EU members to its bolstering of air defense systems in the continent.

Yet, even as Lapid received a warm welcome in Berlin, German attention is elsewhere. Local media showed little interest in the visit, as newspaper headlines dealt with developments closer to home.

“Germany is completely focused on events in Ukraine, on gas prices, electricity prices,” said Dr. Ofer Waldman, a journalist and consultant who is an expert on German history. “Israel is a lot less interesting,” he added.

The Germans will not do anything that will cause an energy crisis in the Middle East

For Lapid, it is important to secure German support. However, with the shaky energy situation Germany and other European countries currently find themselves in, it is difficult to see how far Berlin will go in confronting Tehran.

“The Germans will not do anything that will cause an energy crisis in the Middle East,” said Waldman.

Lapid says that Israel could be part of the solution to Germany’s energy crisis and would be able to supply up to 10% of the gas Europe usually imports from Russia.

Lapid was accompanied during the visit by five Israeli Holocaust survivors. The son of a Holocaust survivor, the Israeli premier was visibly emotional as he landed in Berlin and was greeted by a German military honor guard. On his schedule was a visit to Wannsee, the site of a 1942 Nazi conference where the plans for the “Final Solution” to send Jews to death camps were drawn up.

Relations between the countries continue to be strong. Germany is one of Israel’s largest trade partners. German and Israeli intelligence agencies cooperate frequently, according to media reports in recent years, and Germany has supplied the Israeli military with six submarines.

For Lapid, the visit comes just weeks before an election that will determine his political future. Hopping between world capitals and campaigning against a deal with Iran comes with political benefits. For example, Lapid is scheduled to appear at the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

“It positions him as a someone who understands and deals with the great threats that Israel is under,” said Shpiro.

Israel and Germany have been able to manage their differences cordially. While Germany has been striving to reach an agreement with Iran, Israel has campaigned on the opposing side. In recent weeks and in line with decades of Israeli warnings, Lapid has said Israel reserves the right to defend itself and is not committed to any future deal.

“Sometimes, freedom must be defended with force,” Lapid said in Berlin on Monday, leaving room for Israel to operate against Iran.



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