Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid called Saturday for Israel to separate entirely from the Palestinians, as he presented himself as the sole viable alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We need to get the Palestinians out of our lives. What we have to do is build a high wall and get them out of our sight,” Lapid told Channel 2’s “Meet the Press” program. “There will be no peace. We do not want two nations packed into a single state.”
Lapid also highlighted Channel 2’s own recent poll, which put his centrist party neck and neck with Netanyahu’s governing Likud, with each winning 25 seats in the Knesset if elections were held today.
“We are keeping our perspective and humility, [but] we saw what the polls say,” he said.
“For many months, Yesh Atid has been the sole alternative government, and ultimately if you look at the numbers no one can compete with the Netanyahu government but me,” he said.
“We need to move forward,” he continued, criticizing the current government for neglecting the country’s periphery. “I was in Kiryat Shmona [on the Lebanon border] and they have been forgotten. The political system is not interested in them. We are expressing real commitment to the future, not planning for five years.”
Lapid also dismissed remarks by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, the respective heads of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, who vowed that Lapid would not be prime minister. Israel’s electoral system of proportional representation often makes kingmakers of the smaller parties, who throw their weight behind a larger party in return for concessions to their own electorates.
“I do not play a game in which I make offers to the residents of the State of Israel and then throw it all away in order to build a coalition,” the Yesh Atid leader said. “The political system cheated the citizens and I’m not ready to play this game. I think that the State of Israel should unite, [but] they are dividing us and pulling us to death. We have to live together and therefore if I do [win the elections] the first thing we will do is try to form the largest national coalition.”
Lapid also rejected the possibility that he would run as the number two for another candidate: “If [late Likud prime minister] Menachem Begin were here, I would be prepared to be his 2, 3, or 10 — but your polls also show that I am the only alternative” to Netanyahu.
The Yesh Atid party on Sunday called for the Knesset to be dissolved and for early elections to be set, days after the opinion poll showed it tied with Likud. The new survey showed both parties gaining ground since a September poll, in which Lapid’s party led with 24 Knesset seats to Likud’s 22.
The call by the centrist party came as Netanyahu’s coalition faced vicious internal disagreements over a bill to prevent settlements built on private Palestinian land from being demolished.
“The citizens of Israel deserve more,” a press release from the Yesh Atid party said.
“The government of Israel is entirely self-involved with its own political rifts and with anything but what is important to the citizens of Israel,” the statement read. “There have been no substantive discussions in any government body over where the country is heading: Not in the economic, social, diplomatic or security realms.”
Formed by former journalist Lapid in 2012, the Yesh Atid party stormed to a surprising 19-seat success in the 2013 elections for the Knesset, becoming the second largest party and joining the Likud in the coalition. In the 2015 elections the party slid to the 11 seats it currently holds in the Knesset, where it sits in the opposition.
Netanyahu is currently entangled in a coalition fight between the right-wing Jewish Home party and the center-right Kulanu over the so-called Regulation Bill and the future of the Amona outpost.
Kahlon’s 10-seat Kulanu faction has de facto veto power over legislation in the 67-seat coalition, as bills require a 61-seat majority to pass. Netanyahu needs the support of both the eight-seat Jewish Home and 10-seat Kulanu in order to maintain a coalition.