In Paris meeting with Macron, Lapid will issue a warning to Hezbollah

Prime Minister Yair Lapid will seek to send a stern message to Hezbollah during his Meet Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, a senior Israeli official said Monday evening.

“We want the French president to use his connections to make it clear to the Lebanese government that we intend to complete the negotiations,” the official said, referring to the indirect talks between Israel and Lebanon on the maritime border between the two. country. “We want to do it, but we won’t be able to do it under Hezbollah’s threats.”

“Hezbollah must not play with fire,” the official added, warning that a strike on a gas platform “could be a very dangerous act.”

The Israel Defense Forces said on Saturday it had successfully intercepted three Hezbollah-piloted drones heading for the Karish gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

Tensions have risen at the site in recent weeks, after a gas production vessel arrived in Israel to launch extraction operations in the offshore field, prompting condemnation from Lebanon, which had claimed parts of it. Israel claims Karish is part of its UN-recognized Exclusive Economic Zone.

France, which was given the mandate to administer Lebanon in 1923 by the League of Nations, has since then been a major player in Lebanese politics and economy.

A drone that the Israeli military says was launched by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, is seen shortly before being intercepted by an Israeli fighter jet over the Mediterranean Sea, July 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Lapid took off for Paris mid-morning on Tuesday. He will meet Macron, a close friend, in the middle of the afternoon at the Elysée, before returning to Israel at 8 p.m.

“The prime minister will present new documents that will explain how Hezbollah endangers Lebanon’s security and stability,” the official said.

Along with the warning to Hezbollah, Israel hopes Macron will send a more conciliatory message to the Lebanese government. “The message we want to send to them is that it would be extremely beneficial for them to take advantage of the current opportunity,” the official said, noting the active involvement of US energy envoy Amos Hochstein in the file. maritime borders.

“We can reach an agreement,” the official said, “if they don’t let Hezbollah get in the way.”

If the Iran-backed terror group continues to threaten Israel’s gas fields, the official warned, “it could cause a deterioration that we don’t care about.”

An Israeli Saar 4.5-class missile boat guards the floating production, storage and offloading vessel Energean at the Karish gas field, in footage released by the military on July 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Lapid will also discuss the Iranian nuclear issue at length with Macron, the official said. The Prime Minister will work to synchronize Israeli and Western pressure on Iran, and will stress Israel’s desire for a lasting and effective nuclear deal.

Israeli officials will stress that the US and E3 – Germany, UK and France – cannot buy Iran time by prolonging negotiations, which recently resumed in Qatar after a hiatus of several months.

“We expect there to be an end to these endless talks,” the official stressed.

US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley and the US chief negotiator for the Iran nuclear talks, center, speak at the Doha Forum in Qatar, March 27, 2022. (AP Photo/ Lujain Jo)

“There is nothing fundamentally different in these talks [in Doha] precedents,” the official said.

Israel also expects the investigation into the murder of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to be addressed at Tuesday’s meeting, according to the official.

The day-long trip will include a bilateral meeting between Macron and Lapid, then a larger session with their aides. The visit was arranged before Lapid became prime minister last week.

The friendship between Lapid and Macron dates back to before either of them held his current position. Lapid made the unusual decision to support Macron in the 2017 presidential election, and Macron appeared to return the favor by welcoming him to the Elysee Palace in Paris just four days before the April 2019 elections in Israel.

In late November, Lapid traveled to Paris and met Macron at the end of a three-day trip to Europe, seen largely as focused on the Iranian nuclear talks in Vienna.

French President Emmanuel Macron (center) meets with Blue and White MPs Benny Gantz (right) and Yair Lapid in Jerusalem on January 22, 2019. (Elad Malka)

Following Macron’s election victory in April, Lapid called the centrist “my good friend” and shared a photo of the two men embracing.

There have been a number of signs that, with the election behind him, Macron intends to improve ties with Israel.

French Ambassador to Israel Eric Danon told visiting French parliamentarians last July that Macron intended to reset relations with Israel if re-elected in 2022, according to a diplomatic source with knowledge of the meeting .

Macron’s appointment of Danon was in itself an important indication of the direction he wants the relationship to take. Danon, a close confidant of the French leader, is not a typical diplomat, said Emmanuel Navon of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, and is “very well disposed towards Israel”.

This provision was on full display last July, when Danon gave a surprisingly strong speech during the July 14 celebrations, underscoring France’s position that “the regime of the mullahs [in Iran] should never possess the nuclear bomb.

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