Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid at the Knesset.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid endorsed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position on the danger of implementing the Iranian nuclear deal Monday at a briefing to the foreign press in the capital organized by the Jerusalem Press Club.
Although he called for “rebuilding relations with the US,” Lapid did not hold back criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration’s decision to support rescinding sanctions on Iran, which will allow huge sums of money to flow to the regime.
“Secretary of State [John] Kerry said himself last week that some of the sanctions relief will go to funding terrorism,” Lapid told reporters. “For us, this is not theoretical. This money will translate itself to rockets aimed at our children. The next conflict in the North or South of Israel is just a matter of time.”
Lapid said there were currently around 1,000 people digging terrorist tunnels in the Gaza Strip, some of them under the border and into Israel.
“The provocations, the breaches of international law, the preparations – are already happening every day by Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, both with Iranian backing,” Lapid said. “When the next round of fighting breaks out, the analysis and the reporting shouldn’t start with the first Israeli strike, but with what’s happening on the ground right now.”
Lapid said he backs separation from the Palestinians and supports the creation of a Palestinian state through an agreement and not unilateral steps. Scolding the international community, he said “international pressure will not move us towards such agreement.”
Reiterating his intention to run for prime minister, Lapid said he expected the next election to be between him and Netanyahu. In recent weeks, Lapid has tried to distance himself from the Left and to define the Israeli Center.
In an interview with the right-wing newspaper Makor Rishon over the weekend, Lapid said it was clear the Left would not be in power for the next 30 years.
“I come from a home with the legacy of the nationalist camp,” he said, noting that his father, former minister Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, was a follower of former prime minister Menachem Begin. “I am enthusiastically in favor of annexing the Golan. My principle says maximum Jews on maximum land with maximum security and with minimum Palestinians.”
In the interview, Lapid apologized for calling Netanyahu “disconnected” during the last election campaign.
“I sinned in my personal discourse,” he said. “I sinned and erred with all those personal attacks. That is not what we need. We need to unite and be less divisive, and I’ll start that change with me, not by blaming but by taking responsibility.”
He also said he regretted telling Shas leader Arye Deri that he needed to be rehabilitated and promised to speak differently to the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) from now on.
“I believe it is necessary to change the tones,” he said. “I don’t need to attack the prime minister in order to become prime minister or the haredim in order to tell them that I think it is in their best interests for their children to learn math and English.”
In an effort to reach out to English-speaking voters, Lapid addressed them over the weekend on the Yesh Atid Facebook page. He congratulated the party’s English-speaking supporters for reaching 10,000 likes.
“We want you to know that Yesh Atid is your home inside this home of ours here in Israel,” he said. “We are welcoming you and hugging you and we want to draft you in order improve this place we love so much.”