Yair Lapid, Israel’s new Prime Minister, arrived in France today and will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron. It was Lapid’s first foreign trip since coming into office as interim Prime Minister of Israel last week. The recent turmoil in Israel’s political system resulted in the dissolution of the serving government and the Knesset. Naftali Benett, the former Prime Minister, resigned after the coalition government collapsed following a majority vote. This November, the country will hold its fifth election. Yair Lapid was a foreign minister in Israel’s coalition government. He will continue to serve as Prime Minister on an alternate basis until new elections are held.
His visit is intended to discuss the Iran nuclear deal and the gas dispute with Lebanon. Mr. Lapid stated that it is critical to convey Israel’s position on the Iranian nuclear deal, which is currently being negotiated between world powers and Iran. Israeli officials will emphasise that the US and the E3 — Germany, the United Kingdom, and France — cannot afford to let Iran drag out negotiations, which recently resumed in Qatar after a months-long break. France is one of the parties involved in the talks.
The talks between the US and Iran on the nuclear deal were held in Qatar, mediated by the European Union, but the countries failed to reach an agreement on various issues, and Iran-US failed to negotiate on various issues, causing the deal to stall once more. Iran’s nuclear activities are a source of concern for both Israel and the United States, as they threaten the region’s stability. Since the United States pulled out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran, Iran is suspected of carrying out various nuclear programs covertly. Israel is skeptical of Iran’s activities and is concerned about the seriousness with which the nuclear deal is being implemented. However, Israel blocked measures to revive this agreement, citing the possibility that lifting sanctions on Iran would allow it to continue funding Hezbollah. Israel believes that Iran backs Hezbollah in its denial of the claims of a gas field. This will be a crucial part of the discussion with the French President.
Mr. Lapid told reporters on the tarmac before take-off that our voice must be heard now against this dangerous deal and Iran’s organization and nuclearization in this matter.
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Rapid also stated that he would discuss matters concerning neighboring Lebanon, just days after Israel said it shot down three unmanned aircraft launched by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah that were heading toward an area where Israel recently installed an offshore gas platform. Hezbollah has confirmed that the unarmed drones were sent out for a bombing raid. Though they started talks on a maritime border in 2020, it has never achieved any solution so far. Israel believes that Hezbollah ‘s continuous acts of terrorism are preventing Lebanon’s ability to reach an agreement on a maritime border. Beirut protested that UN maps must be modified and refused Israel’s claims on gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea.
Mr. Lapid said that Israel will not consent to such attacks on its premises, and anyone who does so should be aware that they are putting their lives in jeopardy. While he also warns Lebanon to take control of such actions, he also says Israel would have to take this into their hand.
Although Israel and Lebanon do not have diplomatic ties, they have been involved in indirect talks to demarcate their maritime border, assisted by the United States. France is a firm supporter of Lebanon, a former French protectorate, and Mr. Macron has tried in vain to mediate a resolution to Lebanon’s political crisis. France, which was given the League of Nations mandate to administer Lebanon in 1923, has been a major player in Lebanese politics and economy ever since.
Israel, France, and friendly ties
Israel expects France to send a more conciliatory message to Lebanon’s government and expects them to watch their actions. Lapid and Macron’s friendship dates back before either of them held their current positions. Lapid took the unusual step of endorsing Macron in the 2017 presidential election, and Macron appeared to reciprocate by hosting him at the Elysee Palace in Paris only four days before the Israeli elections in April 2019. When Macros won the presidential elections in France, Lapid greeted him and referred to him as “a good friend.” The reelection of Macron as president is expected to improve relations between the two countries.
What will be the outcome and what were the decisions they made during the meeting regarding the various issues between Yapin and Macron are yet to be declared. Rapid was supposed to be back in Israel by this evening.