Finance Minister Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, is joining those who have rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinian Authority (PA) recognize Israel as a Jewish state in order to achieve peace.
Speaking in an interview Friday on Channel 10 News, Lapid said he did not understand why there is a need for the PA to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
"My father did not come from the ghetto to be recognized by the Palestinians. The entire Zionist idea is that we recognize ourselves and that's enough,” he said and, in a dismissal of the dispute over recognition, added, “As we make progress in the talks there will be many crises. It is natural and that's fine.”
Asked whether he would support a freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria, Lapid would not respond and said, "The left’s historic mistake is that it always announced in advance what it is willing to concede. I will not hurt the talks just to get a headline for two minutes. Negotiations are not a goal, they are means to separate from the Palestinians.”
Netanyahu has insisted that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state in order to reach a peace agreement, explaining that the Arabs’ refusal to recognize Israel stands at the heart of the conflict.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly insisted that the PA would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and has also stressed that the future Palestinian state would not include the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier.
He stood his ground last Friday, saying during a meeting with Fatah youth activists that that there is "no way" he will recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of eastern Jerusalem.
Abbas was backed on Thursday by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said that it is a “mistake” for Israel to demand that the PA recognize it as a Jewish state in order to achieve peace.
“I think it's a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the decider of their attitude towards the possibility of a state and peace, and we've obviously made that clear,” Kerry told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Back in January, President Shimon Peres also called the demand for recognition "unnecessary."
On Friday, MK Zehava Galon, head of the far-left Meretz party, also rejected the demand.
"Israel will be a Jewish state not thanks to Palestinian recognition, but only if a majority of citizens living here are interested in it being so," declared Galon. "As long as there is a democratic majority asking for the day of rest to be Shabbat, and for the holidays to be Jewish festivals, for the language to be Hebrew -- as long as Israelis want that, Israel will be a country with a Jewish character."
Galon further referenced a recent poll, claiming the demand for recognition as a Jewish state "is not only not legitimate, but also against the will of Israeli citizens. When they asked the Israeli public what it prefers, peace or recognition as a Jewish state, the Israeli public said clearly: we want peace."
Friday’s interview with Lapid also dealt with the new draft law which was passed this week and which will force hareidi yeshiva students to enlist in the army.
"We are talking about a gradual process, exactly the platform with which we went to the elections,” he said. “This law is proportionate and balanced. It was time to say to the hareidim that the bonanza is over. The most important part of it is that the state came and said: ‘I have decided.’”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)