Lapid Urges Caution in Negotiations, Calls PA 'Unreliable'
Finance Minister Yair Lapid reiterated Wednesday night the Yesh Atid party's position regarding the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
"The left wants peace at any price and the right is not willing to pay any price for peace," Lapid stated, claiming that, in contrast, Yesh Atid forms the political "center."
"We do not deal at all with peace, unless it will be to 'say goodbye' [literally 'to separate in peace']," he added, a reference to his previously-stated opinion that the best outcome for Israel would be a "fair divorce" from the PA.
He said the goal is to reach an agreement that will allow Israel to separate itself from the Palestinian Arabs, "while maintaining Israel's strict security interests."
Lapid also stated that despite reports to the contrary, Yesh Atid does not support giving control of Israel's security in the Jordan Valley, or elsewhere, to PA control. "People ask me, 'can we trust the Palestinians?' And I tell them, 'Certainly not.' We can only trust in ourselves, and only in the IDF can we entrust the security of the State."
On the other hand, Lapid also appeared to reject the idea of an annexation of Judea and Samaria, a belief strongly supported by Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home party.
"Time and again, the Palestinians have proven that they do not deserve our trust - but it is precisely because of this that the State of Israel cannot afford to absorb four million Palestinians into its borders," Lapid explained.
He also expressed concerns that if Israel annexed the PA-controlled areas, then Palestinian Arabs would be given the rights to vote anti-Israel politicians into the Knesset.
"If we say no, we will stop being a democracy. If we say yes, we'll stop being a Jewish state," Lapid theorized. "Both these possibilities we must avoid - just as we need to avoid the possibility that we become an isolated country, that the United States and the international community will give up on us."
Regarding the security plan laid out by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Lapid remained skeptical.
"Many people do not like the plan, from both the Israeli side and the Palestinian [Authority] side [of negotiations]," he noted. "Because of this, the negotiations will probably be tough and deal with a lot of painful issues."
"Those who are waiting for a defining moment, where the sky will light up in fireworks and people will break into dance at the announcement of peace, simply do not understand how negotiations work in the Middle East," he quipped.
Lapid's subtle criticism of the US approach to, and involvement in, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority follow two days of bickering between the US and Israel over less diplomatic comments made by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
Ya'alon claimed that Kerry's plan expressed an "obsession" with peace and a "messianic" drive to bring peace to the Middle East, and called out the US's top diplomat on forcing a solution to a conflict he does not deal with on a day-to-day basis. The comments sparked a public row between the two countries.