(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid on Monday lamented the delay in implementing a resolution to create a government- recognized pluralist prayer space at the Western Wall and said he did not believe any progress would be made under the current government.
Speaking at the Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem, Lapid was also highly critical of the country’s attitude to progressive Jews, calling Israel “the only Western country where there is no freedom of religion for Jews.”
Lapid said the state had approached Diaspora Jewish leaders and Jewish congressmen such as Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York) for help obtaining various security guarantees from the Obama administration in light of the adoption of the Iran nuclear deal and Israel’s concerns about it.
“Those two people are members of Reform synagogues in New York, and they did this because they feel an obligation to us as brothers, and then the Israeli government tells them their synagogue isn’t a synagogue, their rabbi isn’t a rabbi, their children’s marriage isn’t a real marriage. This is unacceptable and would be resolved in my first week as prime minister,” he said.
Also speaking at the summit, Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett called on the prime minister to decisively tell US President-elect Donald Trump and his incoming administration Israel’s goals and requirements for the future of its conflict with the Palestinians.
Bennett said the onus was now on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to determine the future of the region.
“The big question is not what the [incoming] American administration will do but rather what Netanyahu will request,” he said. “We must, for the first time in history, say what we really want.”
Bennett alluded to Netanyahu’s expressed support for a two-state solution in his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University, saying that if the country adopted it with the Trump administration Israel would not be able to walk away from it.
“We cannot expect support if we don’t say in a loud voice what we want,” he added.
Earlier, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely also cast doubt on the notion of the two-state solution, although she did not refute it directly.
She said she did not believe Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would ever accept any Israeli peace proposal because he would therefore be remembered as a traitor to his people.
“Therefore, it would behoove us to start thinking about we act with regards to [the Palestinians],” Hotovely said. “We need to rethink the paradigm of this region, about the foundation that is preventing the two people here from living together.”
“Six US secretaries of state all failed to bring a two-state solution,” she said. “If a formula doesn’t work time after time you need to rethink the formula.”
Hotovely said instead of focusing on a two-state deal, the international community should focus its energy on changing the Palestinian education system in order to change Palestinian society and make it more amenable to co-existence with the Jewish state.
“Over the last year we’ve seen more and more young [Palestinian] people being involved in the intifada of the children,” she said. “If people want to put energy in economics and in borders and so on without putting energy on education, they’re missing another generation of Palestinians that will end up with no future.”
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“The reason they don’t have a future is nothing to do with Israel,” Hotovely said, pointing to what she described as a dire situation in Gaza “where there is no occupation and no settlements, and there is not even a beginning of a future, and it is even worse than in Ramallah and Nablus.”
“We need to put all our energy to having a society that has the notion of the idea of a Jewish state that exists, because we’re not leaving the region,” she said.
Unlike Hotovely and Bennett, Lapid said a two-state solution is still a desirable goal, arguing that the number of Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza requires Israel to separate from them to preserve Israel’s status as a Jewish state.
“If we don’t have a two-state solution then we will lose Israel as a Jewish state and my father didn’t come here from the ghetto to live in a bi-national state,” he said.
Lapid repeated his previous belief that Israel should hold a regional conference with moderate Sunni Arab states to find a way “to separate from the Palestinians,” but implied that only an interim deal was obtainable in the near future.
“Unfortunately, and I say this with pain, peace is probably something only our children or grandchildren can experience,” he said. “All we can get right now is a very cautious deal. But it is better than what we have right now.”