Yair Lapid's Crucial Choice

If the Yesh Atid leader insists on keeping strange bedfellows with Habayit Hayehudi, a settlement freeze is unlikely – and peace prospects will suffer.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

Yair Lapid, the chairman of Yesh Atid, wants to be prime minister. Okay, good. Lapid doesn’t have the experience necessary to be prime minister. Okay, good. But Lapid has impressive political skills, which he demonstrated during the election campaign. Okay, good. Therefore, in order to prove that he is indeed worthy of being prime minister in the future, the good Israeli needs to prove he is a good reader of the reality map. He has to prove he knows how to distinguish between what is important and what is not.

Here is the map of reality: The Middle Eastern order has collapsed. The lineup of stabilizing powers that enabled us to be here in a reasonable way for decades no longer exists. Iran is on the verge of becoming nuclear. In Egypt there is instability. Syria is coming apart. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and is threatening to take over Judea and Samaria as well.

In this state of affairs it is perfectly clear that in order to maintain deterrence and to defend its borders, Israel will have to use force in various sectors from time to time. In order to use force Israel will need legitimacy. Therefore, for the sake of security, Israel must immediately freeze construction in the settlements that are not inside the large settlement blocs. Only the right freeze will grant Israel the legitimacy credit it needs to in order to protect its existence.

Here is another corner of the map of reality: About 360,000 Israelis are living in Judea and Samaria today. In the past four years the number of settlers increased by about 65,000. In the coming four years the number is liable to increase by 100,000. No one knows exactly what the point of no return is, but the point of no return exists. Beyond a certain line, from which we are not far, the partition of the land will become impossible and Israel will become a bi-national state. Therefore, for the sake of Zionism, Israel must immediately freeze construction in the settlements that are not inside the large settlement blocs. Only the right freeze will grant Israel a future.

If Lapid is reading the map of the reality and is distinguishing between what is important and what is not, there is only one policy conclusion: The 33rd government of the state of Israel must be the freeze government. Yes, it has to deal with sharing the country's economic burden, with intelligence and moderation. Yes, it has to change the system of government, with wisdom and caution. Yes, it has to see to education, housing and health. But the government must strive for all these exalted domestic aims at a time when Israel has a strong defense and foreign policy edifice, based on a freeze of construction in the settlements. Without the right freeze, Israel is liable to find itself reaping a whirlwind that will prevent it from dealing with the depth problems of Israeli society and the Israeli state.

If Lapid is reading the reality map and distinguishing between what is important and what is not, there is only one political conclusion: The 33rd government of Israel must be a Likud-center-ultra-Orthodox government. It must consist of Likud Beiteinu, Yesh Atid, Shas, Hatnuah and Kadima. There is no room for the cynical alliance between Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett. The sane center’s longing for a change must not be subordinated to Gush Emunim’s settlement lust. Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon’s beautiful values must not be shackled to Rabbi Zalman Melamed and Rabbi Dov Lior’s racism and exclusion of women. It is impossible to talk about the Israeli sovereign and walk hand in hand with the rabbis of refusal – who encourage their soldier-followers to disobey army orders – and Zalman Melamed the encouragers of refusal in the National Union and Tekuma, factions within Habayit Hayehudi.

The coming days are crucial days. If Lapid reads (belatedly) the map of the reality and distinguishes (belatedly) between what is important and what is not, he could endow Israel with a government in which there is quite a lot of hope. But if Lapid sticks to his strange alliance with Habayit Hayehudi he will force that party on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thereby preventing the freeze, encouraging the swelling fanaticism and undermining the Israeli home.

Is this the future the Israelis who voted for Yesh Atid sought? Is this the proof that Lapid has the qualifications necessary for becoming prime minister in the future? The choice is Yair’s.

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