WASHINGTON - In interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Finance Minister Yair Lapid expresses cautious optimism regarding the new Iranian regime and commented on Israel-PA peace talks and the Syrian crisis.
“When the reactor in Qom will be closed, when (Iran) will stop enriching uranium, when they take off the enriched uranium they already have,” he said, “then we can discuss the fact whether we can all hold hands and sing hallelujah together,” Lapid told the world.
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Lapid was asked about the tone being set by the new, perceivably moderate, regime in Iran: “I’m happy to listen to any new music coming from Iran,” Lapid said, “but this has to be backed by – not only by words but also by deeds.”
Lapid noted that since Hassan Rohani took office, Iran has installed 7,000 new centrifuges.
Regarding the Iranian issue, Lapid said: “Of course I rather have people tweeting me happy Rosh Hashanah or happy New Year instead of tweeting that they are, I don’t know, Holocaust deniers as it was before,” he said, referencing reports that the new Iranian president allegedly tweeted happy Rosh Hashana to Jews in Iran and around the world.
On the issue of peace talks, Lapid praised the fact that talks were being conducted amid “low expectations.”
“The best things are happening when we have low expectations,” Lapid said. “The fact that everybody is going around and telling each other 'This is not going to work; this is not going to happen,' is actually a good thing.”
Sticks and carrots
Regarding talks to disarm Syria of its chemical arsenal, the finance minister said: “If you want to negotiate, you better have a big stick in your hand – or in this case a big Tomahawk,” Lapid said regarding negotiations with Syria.
“It’s the Middle East; you have to have sticks with the carrots… (and) unless there is a credible threat, all the negotiations are just empty words,” he said.
“This is not over. It won’t be over until all weapons of mass destruction will be out of Syria. Then we will know this whole move has succeeded.”
Hinting that inaction regarding Syria's crossing of the Western red-line might ramify negatively in regards to Iran, Lapid noted that the world should “not be silent when regimes and dictatorships are gathering weapons of mass destruction.”
Concluding, Amanpour asked the finance minister “What symbolizes Israel for you today?” – a question Lapid was famous for asking the guests of his television talk-show.
In response, Lapid told Amanpour: “I’m going to choose the corniest answer that everybody gave me, which is – my children. … Whenever I look at them, I see the reason why is it that I’m doing what I’m doing,” he told Amanpour.
“Everyone’s a bit cynic when he’s in the media. I’m not anymore.”
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