Yesh Atid party leader MK Yair Lapid called Monday for a “comprehensive regional agreement” and an Israeli pullout from parts of the West Bank.
Speaking in English in Jerusalem, at a press conference organized by his party, Lapid made clear that he was delivering a political speech.
“At the next election, I’ll be running for prime minister, and will ask the Israeli public for their support,” he said.
Lapid described the diplomatic plan his party would present at the next election — still as much as three years away — as aimed at “separation from the Palestinians.
“The details may be complex, but the basic idea is simple – Israel doesn’t want to absorb 3.5 million Palestinians. It is time to separate and guarantee our future as a Jewish and democratic state,” he continued.
A full Palestinian state, he added, “will only come about through an agreement — terrorism and international pressure will not move us towards such an agreement.”
He acknowledged the widespread skepticism at the possibility of moving ahead with stalled peace talks, especially noting the latest wave of Palestinian terror attacks.
“The perceived wisdom today is that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not possible,” said Lapid. “Some believe the point of no return has passed; others are waiting for a change in circumstances, or a change in leadership.”
But, he added, “this passive approach to our destiny is misguided and dangerous. We need an approach based on pragmatism and genuine security for both sides. The answer is separation. As decisively as possible.”
Israeli security operations in the West Bank would continue after such a separation, Lapid said.
“The security coordination which exists today – and allows the IDF to act across the West Bank — must continue even after the separation. The Palestinian Authority will shout and claim that this is a breach of their sovereignty, but they know it is also in their own interest. If not for such coordination, Hamas will rise to power in the West Bank the same way it did in Gaza.
“We will not allow” such an outcome, he added, “and it is also the PA’s worst nightmare. We cannot allow a terrorist state on our border, we cannot allow a repeat of the process after the disengagement from Gaza.”
The initiative would not win Palestinian agreement, he acknowledged, but he “doesn’t look to reach an agreement only with the Palestinians, but full and normal relations — diplomatic and economic — with the entire Arab world.”
Such an initiative would also repair “our international standing,” he said.
* This piece was corrected on December 27, 2016. It originally said that Lapid urged a “unilateral” separation from the Palestinians, which was incorrect.