'Israel, US Jewish leaders must reach out to Democrats'

Yesh Atid leader: Netanyahu "seen as Israeli Republican."

February 20, 2017 13:45
2 minute read.

The Israel and American flags side-by-side. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israel and Jewish leaders in the United States must make it their mission to reach out to Americans who support the Democratic Party, Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem Monday.

Lapid issued the call in an answer to a young questioner, who told him about the difficulties in pro-Israel outreach at a time when US president Donald Trump is seen as pro-Israel and is despised by Americans on the Left. He replied that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s image makes the situation even more acute.

“We are at the risk of losing a generation,” Lapid said. “We can celebrate a friendly administration, but one of the sources of our strength in the US is to be bipartisan. The prime minister – and it isn’t his fault – is considered an Israeli Republican, so we have to do more to reach out to Democrats.”

Following last week’s meeting between Trump and Netanyahu in the White House, Lapid said the two-state solution was not dead and that in fact there are new chances for advancing toward a regional diplomatic breakthrough.

“There is a huge window of opportunity, with an administration that is sympathetic to Israel,” Lapid said. “I think it’s an opening for Israel to define its own policies. We can negotiate with the Palestinians from a position of power we haven’t had in years. I don’t want to lose this window due to internal Israeli politics.”
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Lapid ruled out taking unilateral steps, saying that Israel learned from the Gaza Strip disengagement, when he said Israel did what the world asked it to do, and that withdrawals must take place within the context of an agreement.

He called upon Trump to organize a regional conference to discuss the fate of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, rather than facilitate another round of Israeli-Palestinian talks, which he said would be “Einstein’s definition of madness,” because of all the times it failed before.

“We can’t trust the Palestinian leaders, so we need to have someone in between,” Lapid said.

He also said Israel should ask the administration to recognize its sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Lapid pledged allegiance to the Reform and Conservative movements, saying, “We have a responsibility to keep the Jewish people as one people.”

Noting the ongoing court case to force the Reform and Conservative movements to enforce the Western Wall deal, he said, “The Jewish people are suing the Jewish state for freedom of religion in Israel.”

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