Lapid Repented - but Does He Mean It?

Only one swift, decisive move can be made in a short time in order to advance a two-state situation - freezing construction in isolated settlements beyond the separation barrier.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Finance Minister Yair Lapid.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

Yair Lapid presented a peace plan this week. Congratulations. True, the plan isn’t especially original (Shaul Mofaz claims its main points are taken from his plan, and rightly so). True, the plan isn’t in keeping with things Lapid said during and after the election campaign. But better late than never. Better a fitting outline that isn’t original than a creative outline that doesn’t say anything.

The fact that the man who looked for the money is now looking for a peace agenda is commendable. It shows that even the finance minister understands now that if we don’t start wrapping up the occupation and wrapping up the settlements soon, there’ll be no future here, not to mention Yesh Atid (Hebrew: there is a future). Never have we been so close to the point of no return, beyond which lies one state, an everlasting conflict and an Israel with a mutilated face.

But Lapid cannot erase the past year from memory. More than 10,000 housing units have been built in the West Bank since the Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennett government was set up in April 2013. Each and every one of those housing units is another nail in the bleeding body of the two-state solution. Each and every one of those housing units is registered on the name of the man who came to make a difference here. Sara Netanyahu didn’t want Naftali Bennett in the government. Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t want Uri Ariel as Housing minister. But Lapid forced both Bennett and Ariel on the Netanyahu couple.

Instead of leading a strong center-left bloc (that could have included Hatnuah, Kadima and perhaps Labor as well) into the government, he chose to set up a wacky axis with the radical settlers’ party. Instead of shaping a government that would free Israel from the Gush Emunim reign, he gave the government keys to Gush Emunim. So Lapid bears full personal responsibility for the unprecedented construction momentum in the settlements in the past 14 months. Yesh Atid enabled Habayit Hayehudi take over the very state apparatuses that are now working vigorously to deny us all of the future.

Where penitents stand, even completely righteous men cannot stand, our sages are cited as saying. But penitents must express their repentance in words and acknowledge their sin verbally. It’s not enough for Lapid to whisper in closed rooms that he wants to be part of the alliance forming between Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni. Lapid must accept responsibility for the serious strategic mistake he made after the last election. He must admit that the “brotherhood” was a bad joke. He must prove with actions that he is indeed performing an ideological turnabout and replacing the vote-yielding Haredi hatred with serious, systematic and unpopular work to end the occupation.

There is only one test for his intentions – a construction freeze. The old peace process is a walking dead. The new process hasn’t been born yet. The interim period between these two processes is dangerous. There’s no vacuum in the Middle East and no vacuum in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the absence of negotiations, the risk of escalation is high.

So a swift, decisive move is required to replace the negative dynamics of conflict with the positive dynamics of advancing toward a two-state situation. Only one move can be made in a short time – freezing the construction in the isolated settlements beyond the separation line. Such a freeze will not bring immediate peace, but it will stop the fatal bleeding of the two-state solution. It will also stabilize the period during which it will be possible to define another kind of peace process.

So the ball is once again in Ramat Aviv Gimel. If Lapid really means what he said this week, he must demand to freeze the construction immediately. If Yesh Atid, Labor, Meretz, Hatnuah and Kadima unite behind this demand, the political and strategic paralysis will dissipate. But if Lapid continues to be subjugated to his brother Bennett, there will be no future for Yesh Atid and no future for its leader.

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