Yesh Atid presented its diplomatic plan to Ynet on Sunday, with faction chief Yair Lapid saying Israel should embrace a partial freeze of settlement construction and negotiate a regional agreement with the Arab League instead of a final-status resolution with the Palestinians.
“Peace will have to wait for a few more years,” said Lapid, “What we are interested in is a regional agreement which leads to a disengagement from the Palestinians – let them do as they please on their side.”
Lapid was joined in the studio by his Yesh Atid colleagues, former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Peri and MK Ofer Shelah. During a discussion with Ynet political correspondent Attila Somfalvi on future security arrangements, Peri admitted that “unfortunately we cannot trust solely on the Palestinians.”
“We must secure security agreements that will be enforced by international assurances that Israel could live with, like joint patrols, surveillance posts… we won’t get into all the details here but security agreements are necessary, they are critical. No agreement can rest solely on promises or cooperation with the Palestinians,” he maintained.
The Yesh Atid chief then took on one of the central points of division between Israel and the Palestinians in the negotiations – the final status of Jerusalem. Lapid said “Jerusalem will not be divided for the same reason London and Paris will not be divided.”
Lapid rejected the claim that the Israeli capital was already effectively divided. “In that case, you may as well say that any place in which Arabs live in Israel is effectively divided. It is not. There is consensus in Israeli society – outside the loud margins of the left – on Jerusalem; Jerusalem will not be divided.”
The Yesh Atid chief, in full campaign mode ahead of the elections on March 17, criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the recent deterioration in Israel-US ties, which has intensified in recent weeks with Netanyahu scheduled to address a joint session of the US Congress against the wishes of the White House.
“The average Israeli, who might support Netanyahu, thinks Obama hates anyways, may think ‘what’s the big deal?’ But we must remember we are talking about the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, who we depend on for security cooperation. You do not mess with that, certainly not because you are afraid Bennett might steal a seat (in the Knesset) from you,” said Lapid.
The Yesh Atid chairman offered an alternative approach. “We must deal with this topic in the opposite manner,” he emphasized, “using quiet channels, operating with the understanding that they are a super-power, and not trying to be the best possible friend to the Republican Party instead of to the United States.”
Mk Shelah added to the criticism, saying “the damage from the affair of Netanyahu going to Congress has already been set.”
He claimed the backlash to the scheduled speech hurt the willingness of the US Congress to pass legislation to sanction Iran should the negotiations over its nuclear program fail. “The Democrats must protect their president from what they see as a coarse intervention from the Israeli prime minister,” he claimed.