Failure to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians will devastate the economy and harm Israel’s relationship with the US, warned Finance
Minister Yair Lapid on Monday, as he addressed American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.
“The results might be nothing less but devastating to the private welfare of each and every Israeli citizen,” said Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party.
Such a failure would make "our economy more vulnerable to any kind of international sanctions or boycott,” Lapid said.
“The world headed by the US is losing not only its sympathy but its patience. Nothing is more vital to Israel than our special relationship with the US,” said Lapid.
He told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, “You are the spearhead of this relationship. Sometimes you are the CPR team, but our job is to make your job easier, not harder.”
He pledged that he and his party would do its utmost to support the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“I will not let anyone delay or delude the peace process. It is possible; we have to do it,” he said.
“Peace has become in the Israeli discourse a synonym for defeatism and weakness. I refuse to accept this. Peace is not a threat. It is hope,” Lapid said.
It was important for Israel to separate from the Palestinians, both for security reasons and to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, Lapid said.
“This is not a marriage we seek with the Palestinians. It is a divorce,” he said, as he spoke of the entire West Bank.
He warned that every day that passes without such a separation “is a day that brings nearer to us the existential threat of a binational state, which is an unholy alliance of the radical Left and the radical Right, every one of them [acting] from their own messianic reasons,” he said.
In a binational state, Israel would have to stop being a democracy or give up its identity as a Jewish state, because 4 million Palestinians would want the right to vote for the Knesset, he said.
Security is also an issue, Lapid explained. “If we do not separate from them in any given moment they can set fire to the territories and create havoc.”
He added, “It is much easier to protect a mutually agreed upon border than a territory in which Israelis and Palestinians are living intertwined in the same powered keg.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, since 2009, has stated that he is committed to a two state solution, said Lapid said.
“This is the agenda of this government and Yesh Atid is the legion of 19 spheres that is protecting this agenda,” he said in referencing the 19 mandates his party received from the voters.
There is majority support for a two state solution both in the Knesset and among the public, which would need to approve any peace deal through a referendum, he said.
But in achieving a final status agreement with the Palestinians, Israel must not yield on security, “not even one inch,” he said.
The Palestinians also have a responsibility to take the peace process seriously, he said.
“The Palestinians need to know that they will also have to pay a price. They also have to make painful concessions, and if they think all they have to do is just stand in one place as they use to, and wait for us to come to them, they are making a bitter mistake,” Lapid said.
The Israeli publics mistrusts the Palestinians because in past negotiations they refused broad sweeping concessions that Israel made, Lapid said.
He ducked a question from the audience about his vision of what a two state solution would look, particularly given Palestinian objections to Israel’s stated security needs.
In such a final status agreement, he said, “What I want is to make sure the Palestinians are on one side and we are on the other.”
The state of Israel does not need to “rule another nation or people, that is against Jewish morals, it is against the core idea of building here an exemplary society,” Lapid said. “History will not measure us by our F16s or GD, but by our building to build here a human society in which every person has a unique opportunity, that worries about the helpless and the poor and stands behind the core principles of the Jewish tradition like justice and compassion,” he said.