Yair Lapid
Yair LapidElad Gutman

Prime Minister Yair Lapid addressed the Arab public and asked that they vote for his Yesh Atid party in the upcoming Knesset elections, citing his government's support for Muslim rights on the Temple Mount and policy prohibiting Jews from praying at the site.

In an interview with two Israeli Arab channels, Lapid stated that his government has done a lot in the fight against crime in the Arab sector, but qualified by saying: "It is not enough. There is improvement, but the improvement is too small. It is a process, and we need to make sure that this process continues and is strengthened."

According to Lapid, "Women should not be murdered. Children should not be murdered. We need to deal with the criminal organizations. The plan we built in the end pushed out (the criminals), some of the leaders of the criminal organizations have already fled to Turkey and other places. We hit their money."

Lapid blamed the previous Israeli governments for the problem of crime in Arab society. "There was neglect here that lasted for 12, 15 years in a row. The curve of violence went up and up. It's not just the murders, it's also the protectionism, also the rampage on the roads in the south... The government's neglect was complete, and when these things were neglected for so many years, it takes time to fix."

Lapid also said on this subject: "There is years of neglect here that built very, very strong criminal organizations and it will take time for us to deal with it... There was a terrible neglect that resulted, among other things, in the creation of these criminal organizations and their tragic results."

Lapid also blamed the previous governments for the housing problem in the Arab sector. According to him, "For many, many years, many, many governments, most of the years it was Netanyahu in the last 15 years, on the one hand they told the Arab public: Don't build illegally, and on the other hand they didn't make outline plans. People can't live in the air. We are now within this framework that in the last year we have doubled the building permits, there are also more building permits and there is much more planning in the Arab sector. It's still not enough."

Lapid expressed support for the construction of new Arab settlements to deal with the housing problem in the Arab sector. "Young Arabs, like any other young Israeli, need to have a place to live, and the way to do that is to make outline plans. We need new Arab settlements, we need to expand existing settlements. In the Negev, the government approved five new settlements," said Lapid.

"I am addressing the Arab public from here," said Lapid, "this is also a political period and we are before elections. If they want it to continue, they should vote Yesh Atid so that these processes continue."

Referring to the Arab demand to repeal the Nationality Law, Lapid said: "I opposed the Nationality Law. I think the Nationality Law should be changed and a civil equality clause added to it... At the time, I opposed the Muezzin Law, and I went on the stage of the Knesset and said: I want to tell you something, members of the Knesset. Countries do not insult their own citizens. These people are citizens of Israel and we must not insult them just because you want to make a political profit. The Nationality Law as it is written today is a law that has something insulting to non-Jewish citizens of Israel and it needs to be amended."

Lapid emphasized that he believes in the two-state solution. "I think and have always thought that we should say goodbye to the Palestinians... Our goal is to calm down, our goal is that there will be no violence and no terrorism. We will fight terrorism with determination, so that no one gets confused on this issue. And we will fight it wherever terrorism comes from, but that is not our goal Our goal is to live in peace."

In addition, Lapid accused the previous governments of ugly racist incitement against the Arab public in Israel. In response to a question about what he says to the claim that his government is no less right-wing than Netanyahu's, Lapid said: "They probably don't remember what kind of incitement there was against the Arab public in the State of Israel all these past years, because it happened many times. When there is silence and when emotions calm down, then people don't remember what was before? There was incitement here for years and years, from the famous video of the 'Arabs flocking to the buses', as if Arabs do not have the right to vote in the State of Israel. For years there was ugly racist incitement against the Arab public, and it stopped the day this government was established."

Lapid stated his determination to maintain the right of Muslims to hold religious worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and on the other hand to prevent Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. "Regarding Al-Aqsa (Mosque), I have made it in every possible way. We are not changing the status quo at Al-Aqsa, and we will take care of the freedom of worship of Muslims at Al-Aqsa. During Ramadan, I don't know, a million people came to pray at Al-Aqsa, and we made sure that they were able to go up and pray, because it is our duty as a government to allow freedom of worship for any Muslim who wants to come and pray at Al-Aqsa and we will protect it."

Lapid added, "We allow Jewish visits. We do not allow Jewish prayers on the Temple Mount. We allow Jewish visits. They visit. It is under supervision so that the status quo is not violated. The status quo is not violated."