Yair Lapid speaking in Beit Shemesh
Yair Lapid speaking in Beit Shemesh, Oct. 28, 2012. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Yair Lapid, the chairman of the new political party Yesh Atid, unveiled his party's diplomatic platform on Tuesday by calling for a resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians, but said their refugees could not be given the right of return.

Speaking at a conference at the Ariel University Center, Lapid said: "Yesh Atid will not join a government that will not conduct diplomatic negotiations," adding that the idea of a single country for both peoples without a peace agreement would endanger the Jewish character of Israel."

Lapid said: "You don't come to negotiations only with an olive branch, the way the left does, or only with a gun, the way the right does. You come to find a solution. We're not looking for a happy marriage with the Palestinians, but for a divorce agreement we can live with."

Lapid spoke for 30 minutes, using a teleprompter. The audience applauded when he spoke of a diplomatic agreement. Some members of the audience raised signs accusing him of wanting to remove Jewish settlers from the West Bank. Lapid said the waving of the signs was a welcome part of democracy, but did not comment on their content. 

"Netanyahu's claim that there is no partner is an attempt to evade reality. The only thing the no-partner policy has done is to weaken Israel's position in the international arena and to strengthen Hamas," Lapid said, adding that he believed the world is silent in the face of the rocket attacks on the south "because of our silence on the diplomatic process." 

According to Lapid, going back to negotiations was one of the lessons that should be learned from the disengagement from Gaza in that "unilateral steps do not help so we must work toward an agreement."

Lapid said the Palestinians would have to recognize that the large settlement blocs of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Ma'aleh Adumim would remain within the State of Israel.

He said he was presenting his diplomatic platform in Ariel because he is "opposed with all my heart to any attempt to boycott Ariel and its residents or any community in Judea and Samaria." The candidate said that during negotiations no new settlements should be built, but there should be no freeze in existing settlements taking into consideration natural population growth.

Lapid said people who said the settlers were an obstacle to peace were dehumanizing them. "We should see them for who they are. Good people and good Zionists who believe with all their hearts that they are doing the right thing for the people and the country."  

A woman from Be'er Sheva asked Lapid how he would deal with the rocket fire from the south. He answered: "The money must be found for reinforcement and Iron Dome should be expanded."