Friday, 12 Aug 2022 - 15 of Av, 5782

For his first official trip as Prime Minister, Yair Lapid travels to Paris for talks with President Macron on Iran and Hezbollah

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Lapid made the following remarks at Ben-Gurion International Airport, before departing on his visit to the French capital: “Good morning, I am departing for my first visit as Prime Minister to the capital of France, Paris. France is a major strategic partner of Israel in many fields. But a large part of today’s visit is due to the fact that France is one of the E3 countries that are dealing with the nuclear deal with Iran. It’s important that our opinion against this dangerous agreement and against Iran’s organizing and nuclearization be heard at this time. I’ll have a conversation about this with my friend, President Macron. It’s also important that the international community knows that on the Iranian nuclear issue, Israeli society stands together – as one body, with one position, presenting a unified position to the international community. We will also discuss of course what has occurred recently off the coast of Lebanon. There have been repeated attacks on Israeli gas rigs. Israel will not agree to this type of attacks on its sovereignty and everyone who does so must know they are taking an unnecessary risk to their well-being. The Government of Lebanon needs to restrain Hezbollah in the face of such attacks or we will be compelled to do so.”

The friendship between Lapid and Macron dates back to before either held his current position. Lapid took the unusual step of supporting Macron in the 2017 presidential election, and Macron seemed to reciprocate by hosting him at the Elysee Palace in Paris just four days before Israel’s April 2019 elections.

For his first official trip, new Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid travels to Paris on Tuesday to meet with President Emmanuel Macron, a week before Joe Biden comes to Israel for his first Middle East tour since taking office.

Iran and Hezbollah are likely to top the agenda of Lapid’s meeting with Macron.

Lapid was appointed on Friday as Israeli Prime Minister under a power-sharing agreement with Naftali Bennett, which includes a rotation of the title of Prime Minister in case of dissolution of the Knesset, the Parliament. He will lead the government until the elections scheduled for November 1, the fifth in less than four years.

In his talks with President Macron, Lapid is expected to emphasize the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program, and deliver a stern warning with regard to Hezbollah’s threatening actions, according to Israeli media reports.

The trip comes on the backdrop of the resumption in Doha last month of indirect nuclear talks between the United States and Iran, and on the heels of Israel’s recent interception of three Hezbollah drones on their way to the Karish oil field off the coast of Haifa.

Local media quoted a senior source as saying that Lapid would tell Macron that “Hezbollah should not play with fire,” and that Jerusalem intends to continue engaging includes U.S.-mediated indirect negotiations with Beirut, with a view to finalizing an agreement to delineate the countries’ respective maritime borders.

Lebanon and Israel, two neighboring countries officially still in a state of war, had begun in October 2020 unprecedented negotiations under the aegis of Washington to delimit their maritime border, in order to remove obstacles to hydrocarbon exploration.

‘’We want the French president to use his connections to make it clear to the Lebanese government that we intend to carry out the negotiations,” an Israeli official said, referring to the indirect talks between Israel and Lebanon on the maritime border between the countries. “We want to do it, but we will not be able to do it under the threats of Hezbollah.”

France in 1923 was formally mandated to administer Lebanon, and has since been a major player in that nation’s political and economic arenas. France is also one of six countries—along with Britain, Germany, Russia, China and the U.S.—that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

With respect to Hezbollah, tensions have been high since a gas production ship sent by the Energean company arrived at the Karish field in what is widely regarded as Israel’s exclusive economic zone. In response, Hezbollah deputy secretary-general Sheikh Naim Qassem reportedly affirmed: “When the Lebanese state says that the Israelis are assaulting our waters and our oil, then we are ready to do our part in terms of pressure, deterrence and use of appropriate means—including force.”

Lapid is scheduled to fly to Paris at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. He will meet with President Macron mid-afternoon at the Elysee Palace, before returning to Israel at 8 p.m.

The friendship between Lapid and Macron dates back to before either held his current position. Lapid took the unusual step of supporting Macron in the 2017 presidential election, and Macron seemed to reciprocate by hosting him at the Elysee Palace in Paris just four days before Israel’s April 2019 elections.

In late November, as Foreign Minister, Lapid traveled to Paris and met with Macron at the end of a three-day trip to Europe that was seen as largely focused on the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna. He met again the French leader in January in view of France’s presidency of the European Union.

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