Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck back at Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Monday for calling on the government to put forth its own vision for the contours of a future Palestinian state. Lapid, the prime minister warned, lacked sufficient experience in defense or negotiations and should refrain from urging Israel toward a hasty and ill-conceived deal with the Palestinians.
Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said at an annual security and defense conference in the coastal town of Herzliya on Sunday that he would pull his party from the coalition and bring the government down if Israel unilaterally annexes “even one settlement.” He was responding to calls for annexation from the right flank of Netanyahu’s coalition. Lapid also called for renewed negotiations for a two-state solution with the Palestinians, despite a newly formed Palestinian unity government between Fatah and Hamas, which Israel considers a terror group.
Netanyahu, speaking to Likud party members on Monday, quoted a statement made by Lapid in October 2012, when he first declared he was running for Knesset. “We must not repeat the historic mistakes of the left, which always announces ahead of time what it is ready to concede and therefore causes the Palestinians to want more and more — that’s not how you conduct negotiations,” Netanyahu said, quoting Lapid verbatim.
“Indeed,” he continued, alluding to Lapid’s as-yet brief time in politics, “we must not allow a lack of experience in negotiations and lack of experience in defense bring about a reckless plan, the result of which will be like the disengagement [from the Gaza Strip].”
Israel unilaterally pulled out of Gaza in 2005. The years that followed saw frequent barrages of missiles aimed from that territory toward southern Israel.
The finance minister’s comments Sunday were a response to a statement made by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett at the same conference, in which Bennett called on the prime minister to start taking steps to annex portions of the West Bank, beginning with the Etzion Bloc of settlements south of Jerusalem.
After Lapid delivered his speech Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office criticized his comments as naive.
“Anyone with political experience knows that you don’t make concessions without [getting] anything in return, especially with a government partnered with a terror organization that wants to destroy Israel,” officials in the PMO said. The PMO sources also cited the example of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 as part of the case against unilateral action.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called on Netanyahu Monday to “formulate and adopt a plan that all members of the government would be required to accept,” calling the diversity of conflicting opinions made by cabinet members on Sunday a “grotesque spectacle.”
Meanwhile, opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor Party) called on Lapid to break from the coalition and join the opposition to bring down Netanyahu’s government.