Israel’s political field is in uproar over Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s expected speech in the UN General Assembly on Thursday, where he intends to support a two-state solution to the conflict with Palestinians.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday, revealed the content of Lapid's speech which included what they described as his vision for a secure future for Israel.
Justice Minister Gideo Sa’ar criticized the planned speech. “The endorsement of a terrorist state in the West Bank will endanger Israel’s security, most of the Israeli people won’t allow it,” Sa'ar said.
Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on Facebook that bringing up a two-state solution is wrong. “There’s no place or reason to bring up the idea of a Palestinian state," Bennet said in his post. "The government I headed achieved much in the West Bank without concessions, that will endanger Israel’s security.”
“There’s no place for another country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, and no need to work for Palestinian statehood. Empty words such as ‘two-states’ should be left in the 1990s, along with other things long passed,” he said.
Sources close to Bennett view Lapid’s intentions as breaking from the policies of the unity government formed by Lapid and Bennett. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fought world powers over the issue, and they believe Lapid is speaking to left-wing voters when he addresses the possibility of a Palestinian state.
They also point out that Bennett stayed clear of the controversial issue during his time in office, and called Lapid’s shift from the agreed policy, an act of governmental “activism”, saying the government’s role was to maintain the status quo, not make new policies.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked spoke out against Lapid whom she said had no legitimacy to advance such policies and “to complicate matters with word which will damage Israel.
"Lapid only represents himself with his words, not the government. A Palestinian state is dangerous to Israel,” Shaked said.
The planned speech received criticisms from parties in the opposition. "Aafter Lapid established the first Israeli-Palestinian government, he now wants to endorse a Palestinian state bordering Kfar Saba, Netanya and Ben Gurion Airport, while giving lands to our enemies,” Likud said in a statement.
“While Netanyahu managed to keep the Palestinian issue off of the national agenda for years, Lapid worked to raise Mahmoud Abbas on a pedestal in less than a year,” the Likud said.
Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism party also said that Lapid was resurrecting's Mahmoud Abbas, made irrelevant by earlier governments.
"Gantz and Lapid are leading Israel down a dangerous path which brings talk of a Palestinian state back. We warned that this government will lead us back to the Oslo Accords,” he said.
Religious Zionism member and head of Otzma Yehudit far-right Itamar Ben Gvir, said that Lapid was rewarding terrorism.
Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid, said in response to the criticisms, Netanyahu spoke about the two-state solution in his speech in the UN in 2016. They referred to his speech where he said he was prepared to begin negotiations with the PA.
“I believe that for that broader peace to be fully achieved the Palestinians have to be part of it," Netanyahu said at the time.
“President Abbas spoke here an hour ago. Wouldn’t it be better if instead of speaking past each other we were speaking to one another? President Abbas, instead of railing against Israel at the United Nations in New York, I invite you to speak to the Israeli people at the Knesset in Jerusalem. And I would gladly come to speak to the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah” Netanyahu then said.
The intended speach was hailed by parties on the left. “Millions of Israelis and Palestinians are waiting for a state solution which will end the bloodshed. I call on the Prime Minister to meet with Mahmoud Abbas in the UN assembly,” Meretz leader Zahava Galon wrote on her Twitter feed.