"Do we need to go back to the to the negotiation table in order to achieve peace? Of course we do. Why? Because the other option is the loss of Jewish identity in Israel, and we can't let this happen," Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said Tuesday evening.
Addressing the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organisations in Jerusalem, Lapid said the middle class is the "backbone of this country, and in normal countries the people who work the hardest are entitled to education and housing and infrastructure, and we should empower them and make them feel that the system works for them."
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The Yesh Atid chairman told the conference he believes "Jewish identity is in danger, and you are the gatekeepers; you are part of the last line of defense of the people who still believe that Judaism should not be a prison for ideas, but a liberator of ideas."
Lapid pledged to work towards ensuring the equality between all movements of Judaism in Israel – Orthodox, Conservative or Reform – "in conversions, in budgets, in the eyes of the law. No one can claim ownership over the Jewish god.
"I am going to do everything in my power to make sure there will be civil marriages in Israel. The complete dominance of the Orthodox rabbis in Israel over divorces and marriages is an insult," Lapid argued.
Addressing the stalled peace process, the new Knesset member said he was determined to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, adding that failure to separate from the Arab population of Judea and Samaria would mean that Israel ceases to be a Jewish state.
However, Lapid rejected one of the Palestinian Authority's key demands, saying that Israel should not give up sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem.
Moran Azulay contributed to the report
Tzvika Brot and Moran Azulay are Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondents