Israel's Prime Minister Yair Lapid faced a heavy retaliation from within the country, after sources revealed his intention to promote a two-state solution with the Palestinians in his UN speech on Thursday.
Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu party, and a senior partner of the governing coalition referred to Lapid's expected speech as a 'surrender'. In a tweet on Thursday he said that "With the recent rise of Palestinian terror and in light of Abu Mazen's scandalous speech in Berlin, any mention of a Palestinian state is tantamount to surrendering to terror. Statements of this kind by the Israeli leadership only further attempts by Abu Mazen and the Palestinian security apparatus to avoid their duty to fight terrorism."
Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who serves in Lapid's coalition, said that establishing a "terror state in Judea and Samaria [the biblical name for the West Bank] will endanger Israel's safety and that most Israeli people and their representatives will not allow that to happen."
Another minister, Ayelet Shaked, whose future in the Knesset appears to be in peril as she assumed the leadership of a marginal far-right party, said that "Lapid represents only himself in this statement and not the government. A Palestinian state is dangerous to the state of Israel."
Even the Alternative Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a close ally of the prime minister despite their ideological differences, said there is "no place or logic" to the idea of a two-state solution, stating that people who promote such an idea "should stay in the nineties."
Asked about his position on the two-state solution, Minister of Culture and Sports and member of the National Unity party Chili Tropper responded that "I think it is mostly irrelevant and it is not on the agenda. One, we are in an election period, a transitional government, I don't think it is right at this crucial stage in the election process to talk about an issue that is controversial internally in Israel anyway, it would have been more correct to deal with the issue with Iran, which is really an internally unifying issue [...],"he said.
Foreign Ministry CEO Alon Upshitz , interviewed Thursday morning on the Israeli radio Reshet Bet said also Lapid already clarified his position on a two-state solution when he and Biden spoke to the media during the U.S. President's visit to Jerusalem a few weeks ago "but the Prime Minister also said, and said it very clearly also to the Americans, that this is a political plan and that the conditions for implementing it now are not ripe."
However, the left-flank of the government praised the decision, with Meretz leader Zehava Galon adding that she encourages "the prime minister to go one step further, and meet with [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas at the UN Assembly."
The opposition also responded to reports of the speech, with Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party leading the criticism: "After Lapid established the first Israeli-Palestinian government, now he wants to establish a Palestinian state on the border of Kfar Saba, Netanya, Ben-Gurion Airport, and handing over the territories of our homeland to our enemies."
The leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party, Bezalel Smotrich, meanwhile commented that "After years in which the right managed to remove the folly of the Palestinian state from the agenda and make Abbas an irrelevant figure in the world, Gantz and Lapid are leading a dangerous process that brings this deviant idea back to the table.
Ayman Odeh, the chairman of Hadash-Ta'al, which could be more amenable to recommending Lapid for prime minister in the November election after it splintered from Balad, said that "The country's leaders have gotten used to loving the peace process but not peace itself, speaking well in the world while carrying out an ugly occupation at the same time. The real test in the field is to make peace."