In an outdoor café, wearing jeans and his trademark black T-shirt, Finance Minister Yair Lapid gave his first interview to foreign press since taking office. "Lapid has embarked on a media blitz, deploying his telegenic good looks and sound-bite savvy," the newspaper observed.
In the interview, Lapid acknowledged that thousands of settlers would someday be uprooted, something he called "heartbreaking."
The interview itself revolved mainly around the stalemated negotiations with the Palestinians, but also on the future aspirations of the Yesh Atid chairman. Lapid told the NYT that he is still hoping to succeed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but clarified: "I'm in no hurry." Asked about the transition to politics, he called it “painful,” joking, “I used to have so many opinions before I learned the facts.”
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According to the NYT, in the hourlong conversation, Lapid offered no criticism of Netanyahu. He said he talks or exchanges text messages almost daily with Naftali Bennett, Habayit Hayehudi chairman, and declined to discuss security issues such as Iran. “I’m so good at not answering questions I don’t want to answer that we could go all night,” said Lapid, who refused to be photographed for the article at the café.
Regarding his decision to be appointed finance minister at a time of economic difficulties, he said: "Making hard choices always seems to be mistakes, but these are not mistakes. If you want to change a country, you’re going to be bumped every now and then. I’m going to be bashed now, and be the beneficiary of this within, I don’t know, a year or a year and a half,”
Yet, most of the interview revolved around the talks with Palestinians. Lapid claimed that Israel should not change its policy on settlements in the West Bank in order to revive the peace process, and said that Jerusalem should not serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
He did not have many positive things to say about the Palestinian president: "Mahmoud Abbas is one of the founding fathers of the victimizing concept of the Palestinians."
He also questioned whether Palestinians truly wanted a state. "Israelis want peace and security and Palestinians want peace and justice — these are two very different things, and this is the real gap we have to close,” he said. He said he had found Netanyahu “more willing” and “more prepared than people tend to think” to make peace with the Palestinians.
“I am saying what we need to do is something," Lapid clarified, yet the NYT noted that while he vowed “to be proactive about this and do everything in my power to contribute to the discourse,” he has not met with any Palestinians since taking office. In addition, it was reported that he has not spoken with US State Secretary John Kerry since sitting with him at a state dinner during President Obama's visit to Jerusalem in March.
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