Lapid Says Won't Divide Jerusalem, No Matter What

Yesh Atid leader also attacked PM Netanyahu for 'inaction' after Gaza war, says only way to reach deal with Palestinians is through multilateral negotiations.

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Lapid delivers a speech during an conference in Tel Aviv on December 24, 2014.
Lapid delivers a speech during an conference in Tel Aviv on December 24, 2014.Credit: AFP

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid stated on Saturday that his party would never accept any division of Jerusalem - even that meant failure to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.

"We will not divide Jerusalem, no matter what happens," said the former Treasury Minister, speaking at a public cultural event in Holon. An agreement with the Palestinians "can be reached without dividing Jerusalem," he said.

"Nations do not conduct negotiations over their capital cities, and if that's why attempts to reach an agreement fail – let them fail."

The centrist leader attacked Israel's left for "announcing its concessions ahead of time," and its right for "not truly wanting an agreement with the Palestinians."

"We need to separate ourselves from the Palestinians, and not forget that their heroes are people are going around in black masks, like Islamic State militants, cutting off heads," Lapid said. "The Palestinians will never agree to a deal only with them, because they are afraid of the world's Muslim extremists - and that is why we need to go to the Arab League nations, and through them start regional negotiations."

Lapid aslo slammed what he called Netanyahu's diplomatic inaction and "lack of courage" in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge.

"There was no diplomatic effort whatsoever" in the wake of the Gaza war, Lapid said. "If you aren't doing anything, what are you doing in power? What interests Netanyahu is only political survival."

Netanyahu, he added, was anxious that Israel "didn't look determined enough" during the operation, and feared "going to the donor countries conference would look like a weakness," referring to the Israeli decision to refrain from sending an Israeli delegation to the international October summit that raised funds for rebuilding the Strip."There was no effort, and that was a mistake. It's a never-ending attempt by the prime minister to not do anything," added Lapid.

"The Western nations pledged five billion dollars without an Israeli delegation to defend our interests, without achieving disarmament in the Strip, without demanding a single thing from Hamas."

Lapid also blasted Netanyahu's performance on interior issues, saying he had no doubt a third term for Netanyahu would mean significant reforms now in the works would be nixed, sending "Israel back in time."

"Before [Yesh Atid] arrived, there were 39 ministers in the government, three of them without portfolios. We put an end to that," Lapid said, referring to Netanyahu's previous government, which came under public scrutiny for the large number of positions offered to coalition party members.

"They destroyed every good thing we did here – [Netanyahu] will return the number of ministers to 30, will cancel the changes to daylight savings time, there will be no equality in sharing the burden," said Lapid, invoking the terminology of the 2011 social protests that many view as having propelled his party's rise. "He will cancel the national program for Holocaust survivors. We won't let him cancel all that we worked for."

A spokesman for Netanyahu's Likud party hit back, pointing out that Lapid, who served as Treasury Minister until the beginning of December, supported Netanyahu's policies throughout his time in the coalition.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led Operation Protective Edge with decisiveness, resoluteness and fortitude, while retaining responsibility and even-mindedness. His central considerations were the completion of the targets and objectives assigned to the IDF, including the destruction of the terror tunnels and dealing a severe blow to the Hamas infrastructure, while maintaining the protection of the lives of Israeli citizens and the lives of IDF soldiers during the fighting."

"The citizens of Israel know these to be the true facts, and know that the massive security challenges that stand before Israel demand an experienced, responsible and determined leadership. All the rest is nonsense coming from the mouth of an unsuccessful politician who is both frustrated and frightened."

Meretz leader Zahava Gal-on called Lapid's statements on Jerusalem "unconnected to reality."

"Lapid has broken a new record for lie-driven politics and disdain toward the Israeli public There will be no diplomatic agreement [with the Palestinians] without dividing the sovereignty over Jerusalem, and whoever airs such statements is not interested in reaching a deal and a compromise."

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