Finance Minister Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, addressed on Thursday evening the recent tensions between his party and the Jewish Home party headed by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
Lapid and Bennett quarreled recently over the issue of civil marriage but quickly made up. This week, another disagreement surfaced between the parties, this time over the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
On Sunday, Lapid said he was determined to do whatever it takes to prevent the failure of the current negotiations, hinting that a change in the make-up of the coalition - meaning the departure of the Jewish Home - might be needed in order to achieve peace.
It was later reported that Lapid lowered the tensions with Bennett. Lapid explained in a meeting with his party's MKs that reports of his statements about pushing Jewish Home out of the coalition chose "to stress various strange political scenarios."
On Thursday, in an interview on Channel 2, Lapid was asked about the tensions with the Jewish Home and about his “brother” Bennett (the two are often jokingly referred to as "brothers") and said, "Anyone who helps me to improve the situation of the middle class and lower housing and food prices - is my brother and my ally and my friend.”
"Those who do not help us on our path, we will have to deal with them,” he added. “There are times when people, even if they agree on 70% of things, have differences of opinion and I will not concede about anything that is a core value of Yesh Atid. It’s unthinkable that homosexuals in Israel are allowed to serve in combat units but are not allowed to raise their children.”
Asked about the peace talks, Lapid told interviewer Nissim Mishal, “There is now an opportunity to move forward. I will not go into details but I’m sure you know why I say this... I am a member of the security cabinet and we now have the possibility to move forward and I will not allow anyone to let this possibility slip away.”
"There are those who would be comfortable if the negotiations last forever and we will never reach an agreement,” he added. “I say no way. Negotiations are a tool and not an end...I tell you the talks are advancing, particularly on issues that have the utmost importance for us, namely security arrangements. We have the option to move forward. But there are also some who do not want us to move forward.”
Asked whether he would quit leave the government if the talks fail, Lapid replied, “Can Israel digest three and a half million Palestinians and remain a Jewish state? This is critical to Israel's future, especially critical to the security of Israel and what we need to do is move forward and make progress and never give up.”
Lapid has not been doing well in the polls, mostly because the public is dissatisfied with his performance as finance minister to date. Yesh Atid party ran on a platform of fighting for the middle class, but Lapid raised taxes and introduced a series of harsh decrees that have mostly hurt the middle class.
Asked about the ongoing decline in his popularity, Lapid told Mishal, “As far as I’m concerned this is on the sidelines. What’s important is what I’m accomplishing. Ultimately my popularity will be measured by what I accomplished.”