By AVITAL LAHAV, YNET—
“We must make every effort in order to reach an agreement since the current state jeopardizes the future of the State of Israel.” Against the backdrop of increasing tensions between Jerusalem and Washington on the matter of the faltering negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned Sunday afternoon that the negotiations may lead to a change in the composition of the coalition.
At an event in Tel Aviv, Lapid said that “every week that passes by without solid progress in the negotiations risks the stability of the government. This is a government of practice, and it is the right government for the State of Israel at this time and in the next few years.
“The economic and social moves we have initiated in recent months require time to develop and bear fruit, and it is vital for the economy and the State that this government continues to serve the country. I’m determined to do everything within my power to ensure that this government stays the course – even if developments in the peace negotiations necessitate a coalition realignment of one kind or another.”
In his remarks, Lapid noted that the political process “has the greatest impact on the Israeli economy and society.” Lapid stated that the “only several months remain for the due date of the termination of the negotiations. The delays and setbacks mostly come from the Palestinian side, but we are not responsible for the Palestinian side. However we are responsible for the Israeli side. The State of Israel can not and must not take in 3.5 million Palestinians.”
Lapid added that “this is the time to raise the bar. We have reached a stage in which the Israeli government must answer the question whether it is taking part in the political process with a genuine attempt to reach a peace deal. We cannot continue pretending that peace does not involve paying a price – a heavy, painful, national and political price that both signatories of the peace agreement will be forced to bear.”
In his speech, Lapid spoke of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conduct and said “the prime minister has declared that he is aware of this price and of the notion that the only solution on the table is the implementation of the principle of two states for two peoples. I sincerely hope that he exhibits the kind of historic courage required to pay this price.
“It is what he committed to when we established the government, it is what he said before the Knesset and I cannot imagine for a moment that he did not mean every word. Our job today is to turn that declaration into an organized plan of action and stand behind it despite all the obscurities.
“My goal is not to weaken the government or set an ultimatum, on the contraire – I wish to stress that the five ministers and 19 Knesset Members of the Yesh Atid party are a solid foundation within the coalition that allow and will allow the negotiations to move forward.”
The finance minister also criticized previous leftist governments on the subject of past accords that were on the table. “The most historic mistake of the Israeli left, which was repeated over and over again throughout the years, was declaring in advance what it is willing to concede, thus dismissing the Palestinians from paying a price for peace. This is not how peace is negotiated in the Middle East. The Palestinians should know that they too should pay a price, they too should make painful compromises.”
Lapid further said that “every moment without an agreement between us and the Palestinians is a clear risk to the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. With every day that passes without an agreement, we are approached with the dangers of a bi-national state, an idea led by an unholy alliance between the far left and the far right, each for their own messianic reasons. The State of Israel should not control another people, it is against Jewish morality, and it is against the very idea of constructing a model society.”
Responding to Lapid’s remarks, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said he had very little belief in the peace talks, asking “Can we even believe a negotiation conducted by half the Palestinian people? Hamas is not a partner and does not recognize this negotiation. “It’s like negotiating on a car with one of two owners.”
“So what’s the point? That we give away the West Bank to half the Palestinians and the other half continues to fight us and launch rockets at us? We’re giving everything in return for war.
“I don’t get why politicians are in such a hurry to divide Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.”
As for his ties with Minister Lapid, Bennett said: “I’m having talks with Yair Lapid; we continue to meet, but when we say there’s a 70% agreement and 30% disagreement, that’s exactly what we’re talking about. It’s fine that there are disagreements. We knew we had disagreements.”
He nevertheless noted that too many politicians have been discussing the peace talks lately rather than “doing what we were elected to do. We need to take down prices, not settlements. Instead of taking care of housing prices and the economy, people are traveling in all kinds of forums, engaged in talking. Lowering prices is more important than having cocktails all over the world and all kinds of forums.”
He added that his party, Habayit Hayehudi “will continue to focus on the important things.”