Scent of Elections in the Air?

Lapid Drops Demand for Palestinian State

Centrist Yesh Atid party leader veering rightward as possibility of early elections grows.

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid.
Olivier Fitoussi

MK Yair Lapid, chairman of the centrist Yesh Atid party, has not been mentioning his plan lately for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state and is directing his political messages more clearly to the right wing.

Whereas in conferences Lapid hosted about six months ago he spoke of “a demilitarized Palestinian state whose capital is Ramallah,” last month he played down a two-state solution, replacing it with a call for a prolonged process of separation from the Palestinians.

But last Sunday, speaking at a rally in Netanya, Lapid said: “We have to begin a long road, and mainly a cautious one whose goal is to separate from the Palestinians, go to a regional conference and begin to talk about separation in very slow stages – 15 to 20 years, the main element of which will be security arrangements,”

He also said: “I don’t care about the fate of the Palestinians. I care about the citizens of Israel. I don’t believe the Palestinians. Our children will be the ones to take confidence-building steps.”

In contrast, in a rally in Kiryat Gat in August Lapid said: “We must begin to work cautiously so that alongside the State of Israel will be a demilitarized Palestinian state whose capital is Ramallah. And in a meeting in Rishon Letzion in September, Lapid once again mentioned a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel “carefully maintaining security arrangements and freedom of action for the Israel Defense Forces.”

But in the Netanya meeting last week, Lapid did not utter the words “Palestinian state.” Sources in Yesh Atid said this did not signal a change in policy, but at most a change of nuance. The Yesh Atid party platform, which calls for “separation between Israel and the Palestinians according to the principle of ‘two states for two peoples,’” has not been changed, they said.

The source of the change might be the diplomatic plan published about a month ago by Zionist Union Chairman MK Isaac Herzog. Herzog proposed a period of 10 years during which Israel and the Palestinians would completely refrain from violence, at the end of which talks would begin on the establishment of a Palestinian state with permanent borders.

Lapid has also been shying away from mentioning a two-state solution in the media. In February, when Channel 2 News anchorman Danny Kushmaro asked Lapid about the two-state solution, he replied: The citizens of Israel are divided into a minority that want to live with the Palestinians forever and a majority that want to separate from them. This will not be peace. This will be a solution based first of all on the security needs of Israel.”

In a radio interview in February, Lapid said: “We don’t want a Palestinian state. It’s simply the best way to get rid of four million Palestinians whom we want to get out of our lives the question is not whether it’s right or not, but how to create the highest wall possible between us and the Palestinians with security guarantees for Israelis.”

When asked on the Walla news site by Ya’akov Eilon on Thursday how he would bring peace, Lapid answered: “By careful negotiations. We won’t allow another Hamas state to be established alongside us and we won’t make any unilateral moves. We’ll go to a regional conference and out of this conference we’ll start a very slow process of 15 to 20 years, because we need to tell the Palestinians: ‘Listen, what we care about is security for Israel’s citizens first of all.’”

When Eilon asked Lapid about an alternative to the two-state solution, Lapid responded with a nod to the right: “We have to separate from the Palestinians. We have to build a high wall. It won’t be peace. Peace will apparently be made by your children and mine – peace in the biblical sense of ‘make peace and pursue it.’”