Finance Minister Yair Lapid threatened this week to topple the Israeli government if it accepts right-wing proposals to unilaterally annex areas of Judea and Samaria.
“If there is an attempt to annex even one settlement unilaterally, Yesh Atid won’t just pull out of the coalition, it will topple it,” he warned. Yesh Atid’s 19 seats in the coalition government preserve Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s majority.
Lapid made his comments at the Herzliya Conference, an annual meeting on national security. Despite his participation in the security cabinet’s announced decision last week not to negotiate with the newly-formed Hamas-Fatah unity government, Lapid indicated his belief that it is imperative Israel return to peace talks as soon as possible. He deemed it crucial to repairing Israel-US relations. The US, EU and UN have agreed to deal with the new unity government.
According to Lapid, Israel must take time to evaluate the impact of the new unity government. “This [interim] period will continue for a few weeks during which we must evaluate the effects of the establishment of the Hamas-Fatah government on security arrangements, and ensure that Hamas has no creeping control on organizations and institutions in the West Bank.”
“This will be our first step on the way back to the negotiations table,” he added.
The peace talks are “a clear Israeli interest,” Lapid argued. “An agreement will prevent the international isolation of Israel, will increase the personal safety of every citizen, will create an economic ‘boom’ that will boost the GDP and dramatically improve the quality of life in Israel, and above all — will remove the threat of a binational state whose establishment will only mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state and the eradication of Zionism.”
But Lapid’s vision, which rejects unilateral annexation, depends instead on unilateral withdrawal. The first of three stages, in Lapid’s plan, would involve withdrawing from areas in Judea and Samaria which would not require settlement evacuation. Then, Israel would withdraw from isolated settlements. Only then would Israel negotiate with the Palestinians for precise borders, land swaps where needed, and the resolution of other final status issues. These decisions would be made based on an ideal map which Israel must determine.
Officials from the PM’s office dismissed Lapid’s recommendations, and his threats. “Any map that is presented will become the point of departure for the Palestinians’ demands.
“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. We saw in Gaza the results of unilateral withdrawal,” they said.
Some welcomed Lapid’s threats to leave the coalition. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said, “Go, get out of the government, it’s not too late. Join us, and I promise you I will bring the other partners.”
Meanwhile, Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home party cajoled, “Israeli governments existed in the past without the Yesh Atid party, and will continue to exist without it.”