TEL AVIV — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not been hiding his hopes of reaching a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia pronto, and almost at any cost, but apart from his troubles at home inside his own coalition, the Israeli premier is now confronted with objections to a deal by opposition leader Yair Lapid.
Lapid, who preceded Netanyahu as prime minister, embarked this week on a campaign slamming Israel’s ostensible surrender to Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to obtain uranium enrichment technology. The Saudis are seeking US assistance in building and operating a nuclear power reactor as part of a three-way deal that would include a Saudi-Israeli peace.
Lapid told Al-Monitor that he is not opposed to normalization with Saudi Arabia, on the contrary. "I worked on this a lot," he said. "During my time we signed the agreement that allows Israeli flights to pass over the kingdom [in 2022],” he said.
But on the nuclear issue, Lapid draws sharp contrast with Netanyahu. “I am focused on Israel's national security and the regional security of the Middle East. Imagine what Netanyahu would have done if my government had led a move allowing Saudi Arabia to enrich uranium on its soil. After all, everyone knows that such a situation will not leave the Turks or Egyptians indifferent."