Lapid doesn’t rule out evacuating Jordan Valley settlements for peace

During tour, Yesh Atid chairman voices support for ongoing military presence along Jordan river, but stops short of promising to keep residential communities

Jordan Valley Regional Council chairman David Elhayani (L) speaks to Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid at a lookout point above the Jordan Valley on July 23, 2018. (Courtesy)

JORDAN VALLEY — Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid has left open the possibility of evacuating settlements in the West Bank portion of the Jordan Valley in a future peace deal.

Lapid, who polls currently indicate has the best chance of defeating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the next election, told residents several times throughout his Monday tour of the regional council that “the Jordan Valley would remain the security border of the state of Israel in any future agreement.”

However, when asked whether he was endorsing retaining a civilian presence along the Jordan Valley in addition to a military one, the opposition lawmaker offered a more nuanced response.

“Not for nothing did I say it will remain the ‘security’ border. Everyone can decipher on his own what that means,” he said.

Pushed to elaborate, Lapid said he was not interested in showing his cards.

Yair Lapid (R) tours a pineapple farm in the Jordan Valley on July 23, 2018. (Courtesy)

“The great mistake of the Israeli left over generations has been its willingness to always starts negotiations by announcing what it will give up and what it will not give up,” the Yesh Atid chairman explained, still leaving open the possibility of evacuating Jewish West Bank communities between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.

The response differed from ones he gave regarding Jerusalem, which he asserted would forever function as Israel’s “united” capital, and on the Golan Heights, which he maintained would remain part of Israel under any deal.

Still the Yesh Atid chairman offered his full support for the 21 Israeli communities in the regional council, praising the residents for their agricultural successes in the Jordan Valley’s less than ideal climate conditions.

During a sit-down with several dozen residents of the Tomer settlement, locals highlighted their amicable relations with many of their Palestinian neighbors that they employ. They told Lapid that an “economic peace” was more realistic than other solutions proposed by the government.

While the opposition lawmaker acknowledged the importance of grassroots initiatives that improve relations between Israelis and Palestinians on the ground, he said a plan by leaders was also necessary and that the one he endorses sees “Israel eventually separating from the Palestinians.”

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