Israel Prime Minister Yair Lapid took perhaps what may turn out to be his one swing at bat on the world stage of the United Nations and made his pitch Thursday for a “two-state solution” to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In his political career, Lapid has made no secret that he favors this option, but his comments still drew swift and fierce blowback from rivals and even some allies in Israel.
“An agreement with the Palestinians, based on two states for two peoples, is the right thing for Israel’s security, for Israel’s economy, and for the future of our children,” Lapid said.
He offered only one condition for the Palestinians to achieve statehood: “That a future Palestinian state will be a peaceful one. That it will not become another terror base from which to threaten the well-being and the very existence of Israel. That we will have the ability to protect the security of all the citizens of Israel, at all times.”
Even before Lapid officially made the speech at the UN, his intentions drew fast and furious ire from those on the right in Israel and even those who are allies of Lapid’s government.
Lapid has “no public legitimacy to entangle Israel with statements that cause damage to the country,” tweeted right-wing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. She is pointing out that he is merely a caretaker prime minister until the November elections and should not be pushing such massive policy moves without a fresh mandate from Israeli voters.
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately accused Lapid of “endangering” Israel’s future. “Lapid is bringing the Palestinians back to the forefront of the world stage and putting Israel right into the Palestinian pit.” However, in 2016, Netanyahu (who hopes to be prime minister again after November’s elections) stood on the very same stage as Lapid and advocated for a two-state solution.
Netanyahu said, “I remain committed to a vision of peace based on two states for two peoples. I believe as never before that changes taking place in the Arab world today offer a unique opportunity to advance that peace.” He even offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas the opportunity to address Israel’s Knesset. Netanyahu has since distanced himself from that statement.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar of the National Unity party tweeted his strong opposition to Lapid’s proposal, “Establishing a terror state in Judea and Samaria will endanger Israel’s security.”
Even Lapid’s forming governing partner (and former prime minister) Naftali Bennett criticized Lapid. He said, “there is no place or logic in floating anew the idea of a Palestinian state. The year is 2022, not 1993 (the year when the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians were signed). Even Israel’s true friends also don’t expect us to compromise on our security. There is no reason to volunteer to do so. There is no place for another country between Jordan and the [Mediterranean] Sea.”
It does seem like an unwise move politically. While the average Israeli would love to have peace with the Palestinians, they have lost faith over decades of terror that there is any true leadership partner. The Palestinian Authority is fully corrupt, and the other option, Hamas, is a murderous terrorist group. Furthermore, seeing that Israel’s Arab neighbors are more and more willing to make peace without solving the Palestinian quagmire is another reason let sleeping dogs lie. If the Palestinians really want to state, they should be the ones bringing it up and then backing their words with deeds by shutting down terrorist groups.
Lapid did have some support back home and abroad. Israel’s Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg (left-wing Meretz party) called it “the right step” and that Israel “should lead this process, and turn over every stone until it is achieved.”
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides called Lapid’s speech “courageous” and tweeted, “Peaceful coexistence is only way forward. As POTUS urged here in July, ‘two peoples, with deep & ancient roots in this land, living side by side in peace and security.’”
Lapid actually devoted much of his speech to the mounting nuclear threat from Iran to Israel, the Middle East, and the world. And it is possible that his strategy was to position Israel as a country desiring peace juxtaposed to Iran, which is bent on war and destruction.
“If the Iranian regime gets a nuclear weapon, they will use it. It needs to be made clear to Iran that if it advances its nuclear program, the world will not respond with words, but with military force. Every time a threat like that was put on the table in the past, Iran stopped and retreated.”
Lapid accused world leaders of “choosing the easy option” while Iran is “conducting an orchestra of hate.”
“Our democracies are slowly being poisoned by lies and fake news. Reckless politicians, totalitarian states and radical organizations are undermining our perception of reality.”
“Israel is a proud sovereign nation, and an equal member of the United Nations. We will not be silent when those who wish to harm us, use this very stage to spread lies about us.”
“We will not stand by while there are those who try to kill us. Not again. Never Again,” Lapid emphasized.
Photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO Israel