Lapid: Reaching a Two-state Solution Deal Could Take ‘Four, Five, Six Years’

Head of Yesh Atid party tells audience of English-speaking immigrants that he's against direct bilateral talks with Palestinians, favors regional summit instead.

Moti Milrod

Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid Party, told a large crowd of English-speaking immigrants on Sunday that despite his earlier reservations, he was convinced now that the upcoming election provided an opportunity “to make lemonade out of lemons.”

Taking aim at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Lapid said the election was about choosing “between the people who have a plan and the people whose only plan is to do nothing and enjoy the facilities and good life of governing.”

Lapid’s party had 19 seats in the outgoing Knesset, but according to recent polls, it stands to lose a considerable share of them. For this reason, the Yesh Atid leader has in recent days been trying to persuade Moshe Kachlon, the popular former Likud minister who recently set up his own party, to join forces with him. Recent polls show that if the two parties were to merge they would earn more votes than any other.

Lapid was addressing a gather of the Tel Aviv International Salon, an English-language speakers’ forum. Organizers said that close to 1,000 participants showed up at the event. Lapid was accompanied to the event, which began with a Hanukka candle-lighting ceremony, by several members of his party, including Dov Lipman, an American-born rabbi, and Ruth Calderon, a leader of the Jewish revivalist movement in Israel.

Lapid told the crowd that Netanyahu was looking for “a sucker” to take responsibility for Israel’s economic woes and, therefore, offered him the job of finance minister. “When I became finance minister, everyone warned it was a trap Netanyahu was putting me in because he wanted me to fail,” he said.

The reason Netanyahu ultimately fired him, Lapid claimed, was that he had succeeded in his position. “He did the same thing to Kachlon, Naftali Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar and Yvette [Avigdor Lieberman],” said Lapid, citing the names of other politicians who had fallen out with Netanyahu. “Whoever had the nerve to succeed suddenly found himself out.”

Asked about this political platform, Lapid said he opposed direct bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, but rather, favored a regional summit with the rest of the Arab world. “Israel cannot absorb 4 million Palestinians and remain a Jewish and democratic state,” he said. “We have to go back to the negotiating table, but they [the current government] won’t unless someone forces them to.”

Reaching a two-state solution will not happen overnight, he warned. “It’s gonna take four, five, six years,” he said.

Asked by a member of the audience why young English-speaking professional should stay in Israel today, Lapid responded: “You have a complete sense of belonging here that you don’t have anywhere else.”

In a nod to the largely American crowd, Lapid disclosed that he is a big fan of country music.