Daily Israel Report

Lapid: 'Settlers' Taking Money from Middle Class

Yesh Atid chairman tells Bennett: "You turned the communities in Judea and Samaria into another extortionate sector."
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/15/2013, 1:17 AM

Yair Lapid
Yair Lapid
Flash 90

The residents of Judea and Samaria are at the root of all of Israel's financial problems, according to the head of the Yesh Atid (Future) party, Yair Lapid.

On Monday, Lapid responded to Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) chairman Naftali Bennett, after the latter accused Lapid of failing to condemn a strike at the Ashdod Port because he feared the wrath of the Ashdod Port employees.

"I actually agree with Naftali 100 percent," Lapid said, adding, "It's true of course that people are allowed to form unions to protect their social rights, but strong unions that are meant to protect the weak sector cannot become an extortionist sector that costs us billions that could go to education, housing, and the periphery. It really is not about being in the right, the left or the center."

"But speaking of economics, I want to ask Naftali, what about the settlements? Are the billions of shekels that are spent on building roads in isolated settlements outside the settlement blocs not part of the problem? Is a reserve battalion guarding three families at an illegal outpost not a political exploitation of state resources?"

"Let's put aside for a moment the debate over the future of the Israeli-Arab conflict - you turned the settlements in Judea and Samaria into another extortionate sector that takes the money from the middle class just because it can," claimed Lapid.

"I think that the settlers are Israeli patriots, but it's precisely because of this that they need to understand that the budget cuts will not skip over them. They should bear the burden like the entire Israeli middle class. If we're brothers, then we're also brothers when it comes to the economy. What do you say Naftali?"

Earlier on Monday, Lapid's number two, Rabbi Shai Piron, attacked Bennett for what he called his "delusional" plan for annexation of Area C, which is under complete Israeli control.

Rabbi Piron called the plan a "delusional agenda which denies international assumptions regarding a two-state solution and which leads us to danger." Instead, he said, there should be "a solution that speaks about two states for two peoples -- that is the future of the State of Israel, two states for two people which includes the settlement blocs and Jerusalem."

Area C contains all the Jewish population living in Judea and Samaria and has only 4% of the total Palestinian-Arab population of Judea and Samaria. Area A is under PA control and area B is under partial PA control with the IDF in charge of security.

Bennett has made the idea of annexing Area C part of the Jewish Home party platform, pointing out that there are more than 300,000 Jews living there and only 55,000 Arabs. As part of his plan he would extend Israeli citizenship to the 55,000 Arabs living in Area C.

Bennett also made it clear in a speech on Sunday that when it comes to Israel's economy, he does not care about "sectors" of society but seeks to help all Israelis.

"I do not know what all the 'ism's are about," said Bennett. "I do not care about socialism and capitalism, we have a 3,000 year old Jewish economy which teaches us to be concerned for the weak, to love the stranger, and build community life and engage in mutual assistance. In Israel there is this issue where blame is placed on someone else - the settlements are to blame, it's all because of the hareidim, the secular leftists are to blame."

"In Jewish Home there are no camps, we are home to everyone," he said. "We don't know what Sephardi, Ashkenazi, secular, traditional means. The way to solve problems is together. The way to solve our problems is to stop the hate speeches in Israel. There should be no hatred between brothers -- Not in Likud, not in Labor, not in Yair Lapid nor in any party in Israel. We believe in brotherly love and with that we will win."