Bennett, Lapid offer conflicting views on peace

In separate interviews to US media, Bennett urges "coexistence" with Palestinians, Lapid calls for "honest divorce."

June 21, 2013 17:47
3 minute read.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett at Knesset swear in, Feb 5, 2013.

Lapid and Bennett at Knesset swear in 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) came out in support of a two-state solution, while his coalition partner Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) rejected it completely and urged for "coexistence" between Israelis and Palestinians, in interviews they gave separately to the Washington Post this week.

"For me, there’s no other game in town but the two-state solution. The Palestinians must have their own country, and the Israelis must understand that the Palestinians should have their own country," Lapid told the Post.

Dubbing the two-state solution an "honest divorce" between Israel and the Palestinians, Lapid vowed to "push for this as hard as [he] can."

Lapid previously presented a more pessimistic take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, telling the New York Times last month that he was against relinquishing Israeli control on any part of Jerusalem, including east Jerusalem, that the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

Lapid also told the Times that he would not obstruct the "natural expansion" of settlements in the West Bank.

While Lapid did not address the issue of Jerusalem in the Post interview, he did express a softer stance on the settlements.

"I think that eventually we will have no other option but to pull lots of settlements out of the West Bank," he said, clarifying that settlement blocs like Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion will not be evacuated.

While Lapid sees the two-state solution as the only option and dubs the one state to two nations option as "too horrific" and "the end of Zionism," his coalition partner Naftali Bennett expressed skepticism peace will be reached through this option.

"Not all problems are solvable; some you have to live with," Bennett asserted to the Washington Post, repeating his call to annex Area C of the West Bank and giving the Arab residents there a full Israeli citizenship, as a way to coexist in the disputed land.

"[The Palestinian leaders] don’t accept the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state. So instead of fighting about what we can’t agree on, I would do a Marshall Plan for Judea and Samaria for everyone," he said.

"What’s happening de facto is there’s growing coexistence. We’re not on the hills singing 'Kumbaya' together, but we’re getting along. There are roughly 22,000 Palestinians working side by side with what you call settlers in factories and malls in the West Bank. If you work together, you start understanding each other."

Bennett told the Post he believes the Palestinians would "jump at the opportunity of getting the benefits of being Israeli" and added he is not concerned of the demographic issue.

"Right now, the demography is good in Israel, and it’s in fact getting better. Generally speaking, the Arab fertility rates have been going down, and the Jewish fertility rates are going up," he said.

As for the rest of the West Bank, where Jewish settlers don't live, Bennett offered giving the Palestinians "full self-governance."

Despite his objection to the two-state solution, and dubbing it "national suicide," Bennett said he will not veto a government decision to go down that route.

"I’m not going to do anything to stop the negotiations because this government wants to progress in that direction. I think talking is fine. I am very skeptical that it will lead to anything," he said.

"At the end of the day, at the critical moment, every Palestinian leader balks. I’m very skeptical that Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] will be willing to accept Israel as a Jewish state," he continued. "I don’t think he wants to go down in history as the guy who agreed to have a Jewish state."

"I think it’s time for fresh thinking. If the current course has been leading to failure and death, let’s think of another alternative. Let’s start building businesses together, living together, reducing the hate levels," Bennett concluded.

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