Lapid vows not to let peace talks be thwarted

Finance minister says coalition may need to change in service of negotiations, declares peace deal crucial for Israel’s economy

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, November 05, 2013. (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/FLASH90)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid, November 05, 2013. (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/FLASH90)

Amid claims by other ministers that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks had no chance of succeeding, Finance Minister Yair Lapid insisted Sunday that he would not let naysayers within the coalition derail the peace effort.

Speaking at a high-level Tel Aviv business conference Sunday, Lapid warned that the failure of the talks posed a threat to Israel’s economic stability and said he would go as far as advocating remaking the coalition to keep the negotiations moving forward, a jab at his onetime ally, Jewish Home party chief Naftali Bennett.

“I’m determined to do everything within my power to ensure that this government stays the course — even if developments in the peace negotiations necessitate a coalition realignment of one kind or another,” he said.

Earlier in the day Bennett, an Orthodox-nationalist who joined up with centrist Yesh Atid party leader Lapid during coalition negotiations a year ago, called peace negotiations that did not include Gaza Strip-ruling party Hamas “a joke.”

His comment compounded a series of pessimistic reports from both Israelis and Palestinians on the futility of talks. On Friday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman stated that talks were likely to fail. “I don’t believe it is possible in the next year to achieve a comprehensive solution, to achieve some breakthrough, but I think it’s crucial to keep our dialogue, because we live in the same region, we’re neighbors. It’s important at least to think about coexistence,” Liberman said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was similarly skeptical and said Saturday that he was “learning that we have no partner on the other side.”

However, Lapid said the alternative — a bi-national state — would spell an end to democratic Zionism.

“Each day that passes without an agreement brings us closer to the specter of a bi-national state, the idea espoused by the unholy alliance of the radical left and the radical right, each for its own messianic reasons,” Lapid said. “In such a state, millions of Palestinians will demand the right to vote in Knesset elections. The option facing us then will be to deny this right and cease to be a democracy or to accede to this demand and to destroy, with our own hands, the Zionist idea.”

Lapid later emphasized the economic benefits of a peace deal and warned that failure to reach a deal “would likely be extremely destructive to the economic welfare of each and every Israeli citizen.”

“Signing an agreement will attract foreign investment, open up new export markets, including those of Arab states, and will result in a stronger, more stable economy from which all citizens of this country will reap the benefits,” Lapid said. “And peace is ultimately the best strategic option for ensuring the personal security of each and every one of us.”

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