Lapid to NYT: I Oppose Freeze on Israeli Settlement Construction

In interview with The New York Times, Yair Lapid addresses Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for first time since being instated as finance minister; suggests Abbas isn't partner for peace and says he hopes to succeed Netanyahu but he is in 'no hurry.'

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Finance Minister Yair Lapid opposes a freeze on Israeli settlement construction as a gesture to jumpstart negotiations with the Palestinians.

In an interview with The New York Times, Lapid admitted that he has not spoken to nor met with any senior Palestinian officials, but claimed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is not a partner for peace.

Since being instated as finance minister, Lapid has refused to speak to Israeli media about Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but his interview with The New York Times focused primarily on the matter. This seems to indicate that he prefers talking about diplomatic issues before an international audience.

In his interview, Lapid adopted the stance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on matters concerning the Palestinians. He even complimented Netanyahu, saying he found him "more willing" and "more prepared than people tend to think" to make peace. Lapid also said in the interview that he still hopes to succeed Netanyahu as prime minister, but that he is "in no hurry."

"Lapid said he would not stop the so-called 'natural expansion' of settlements in the West Bank, nor curtail the financial incentives offered [to] Israelis to move there", The New York Times wrote. "He said the large swaths of land known as East Jerusalem that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and later annexed must stay Israeli because 'we didn’t come here for nothing.'”

The finance minister claimed that a permanent settlement with the Palestinians would eventuate in uprooting "remote settlements", but added that the settlements issue needs to be put aside and attention turned toward establishing a Palestinian state with temporary borders in areas of the West Bank that are not considered Jewish, with permanent borders being drawn in three to five years.

Lapid expressed skepticism regarding the likelihood of Abbas signing a peace agreement. "He’s one of the founding fathers of the victimizing concept of the Palestinians," he told The New York Times.

“Israelis want peace and security and Palestinians want peace and justice - these are two very different things, and this is the real gap we have to close,” Lapid was quoted as saying in the article. “More and more people are saying to themselves and to others, this is not going to happen, all we have to do is some maintenance and we’ll see. Some people think ‘we’ll see’ is ‘God will help us,’ which is not a very tangible idea to me. Others say, ‘Some problems are not to be solved,’ which is a very sad idea. I am saying what we need to do is something.”

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni responded to Lapid's comments, saying "Lapid's texts do not coincide with his party's elections promises," NRG reported. Livni added that that "Lapid's comments on such a delicate week do not promote the peace process. I hope Yesh Atid will eventually also join the push for peace."

Yair Lapid poses for a portrait at his house, January 16, 2013.Credit: AP

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