Finance Minister Yair Lapid praised prospects for an interim agreement with the Palestinian Authority in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post ahead of the newspaper’s annual diplomatic conference next month.
Lapid, who will be a featured speaker at the event, is part of a ministerial forum that regularly receives briefings on the progress of negotiations with the PA that are being conducted by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molho. The leaks from the talks have been limited, but there have been reports that Israel is seeking an interim rather than a permanent deal.
The Yesh Atid leader said the conflict with the Palestinians was not about borders, Jerusalem, security arrangements, settlements, or Palestinian terror, but about hatred, pain, mistrust and bad memories.
“We need to find a solution that concludes the ability to go through these emotions,” Lapid said. “I don’t know if interim state is the name for it, but time is one of the ingredients we need if we want wounds to heal. Let’s leave it vague for now. I’m not going to jeopardize the process to be fancied by somebody or get invited to the right caucus. It’s too important to me.”
Lapid said if the current round of talks with the PA fails, Israel would need to start over again and again and never give up until a deal is reached. Past proposals for an interim agreement have involved Israel transferring barren land in Area C in the West Bank to the Palestinians without dismantling Jewish communities there, enabling the creation of a Palestinian state, and then negotiating its final border.
In an interview that will be published in Friday’s Post, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon warned that if Netanyahu pursued an interim agreement even after the Likud rejected such a deal, he could be forced out of the party.
“[Netanyahu’s departure from the party] can happen if he decides to endorse Livni’s views,” Danon said. “A deal giving up most of Judea and Samaria – the current Likud leadership will not accept that.
We [who oppose such steps] are the majority in the party. Something so important [as giving up land] cannot be done via political tricks.”
Lapid upset another top figure in Likud when he rejected Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom’s plan for a five-day work week with Sundays off.
“That [plan] is one of those things everyone enjoys contemplating, but there are more immediate problems that have to be dealt with,” said Lapid, whose support would be necessary to implement such a shift.
Lapid said he would, however, back a plan to move the trading of the Israeli stock exchange from Sunday to Friday. Shalom’s associates said synchronizing Israel’s financial system with the world’s would be the first step toward making Sunday part of the weekend.
“After that is implemented, the full implementation of the five-day work week will be expedited,” a source close to Shalom said. “Despite Lapid, Israel will continue to proceed in that direction, because it’s the right thing to do.”
Lapid said he regretted saying in an interview after the January election that he believes he will be Israel’s next prime minister.
But he has not changed his mind.
“I’ve never hidden the fact that, coming into politics, I thought of going all the way, but I’m in no hurry,” he said.
“This government has plenty of juice, and it can last all four years. So far, I did only the difficult painful parts [of being finance minister] that a politician hates doing. I will need some time to gain political profit from the things we’re doing now. So the answer is yes, I will be [prime minister], but I am in no hurry, and I am not obsessed with it.”