World must use force if Iran builds nuclear bomb, says Israeli PM Yair Lapid

NEW YORK – The international community should use military force if Iran develops nuclear weapons, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid told the United Nations on Thursday, as he reiterated support for creation of a “peaceful” Palestinian state.

Israel has been conducting an intense diplomatic offensive in recent months to try to persuade the United States and main European powers such as Britain, France and Germany not to renew the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

For the past 10 days, various officials have suggested that the deal – which US then-president Donald Trump scrapped in 2018 – might not be renewed until at least mid-November, a deadline that Mr Lapid has tried to use to push the West to impose a tougher approach in their negotiations.

“The only way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is to put a credible military threat on the table,” Mr Lapid said in a speech at the UN General Assembly. Only then can a “longer and stronger deal with them” be negotiated, he said.

“It needs to be made clear to Iran that if it advances its nuclear programme, the world will not respond with words, but with military force,” he said.

And Mr Lapid made no secret that Israel itself would be willing to engage if it felt threatened.

“We will do whatever it takes,” he said. “Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.”

A senior US official downplayed any differences between Mr Lapid and President Joe Biden, who has vowed not to let Iran develop an atomic bomb.

Diplomacy is “by far the best way” to achieve that goal, but “as a last resort, he would resort to military force if that’s what it took”, the official said on condition of anonymity.

From the General Assembly podium, Mr Lapid accused Teheran’s leadership of conducting an “orchestra of hate” against Jews, and said Iran’s ideologues “hate and kill Muslims who think differently, like Salman Rushdie and Mahsa Amini”, the woman whose death after being arrested by Iran’s morality policy has triggered widespread protests there.

Israel, which considers Iran its archenemy, also blames Teheran for financing armed movements including the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas.

Despite existing “obstacles”, he said, “an agreement with the Palestinians, based on two states for two peoples, is the right thing for Israel’s security, for Israel’s economy and for the future of our children”.

Mr Lapid, who is campaigning for Nov 1 legislative elections, said a large majority of Israelis support a two-state solution, “and I am one of them”.

He said: “We have only one condition: that a future Palestinian state be peaceful.”