The current American peace initiative brought the ideological split within Israel’s governing coalition to the fore this week, as Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett exchanged their diametrically opposed views.
Their alliance of convenience, formed at the time of the coalition negotiations, has held until now. But on Wednesday Lapid issued a rare criticism of his ally, repudiating his opposition to a Palestinian state, and asserting that Israel should make every effort to bring about two states for two peoples.
Bennett made headlines on Monday when he proclaimed that the two-state solution had hit a “dead end.” “Never in the history of Israel has so much energy been invested in something so pointless,” Bennett said.
“We need to go from a situation in which we try to convince people that it is a bad idea, to one in which this idea is behind us,” he said about the idea of a Palestinian state. “Anyone who travels around Yehudah and Shomron knows that what they say in the hallways of Oslo and Annapolis is detached from reality.”
Lapid told Israeli media, “I think he’s wrong … Not having two states means that Israel would be a bi-national state, which would be the end of Zionism,” he said.
The finance minister also said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was working behind the scenes to advance the diplomatic process in ways of which the public is not aware.
Other ministers have been speaking out for and against the Kerry peace initiative. On Thursday, during a speech at the Vienna offices of the United Nations on outer space technology, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Perry (Yesh Atid) injected his views on the peace process.
“One of the good alternatives to the Israel-Palestinian conflict that need to be examined and that has been brought up lately, is the Arab League Peace Initiative,” Peri said. “The initiative signals the path ahead.” The League offers recognition of the state of Israel for a withdrawal to the 1967 lines and allows for the possibility of some land transfers.
Perry, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service, sits on a small committee of senior Cabinet members that is briefed on peace efforts.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the designated chief negotiator (if negotiations ever resume), has warmly welcomed Kerry’s efforts and is eager to meet again with the Palestinians.
Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, on the other hand, joined other right-wing politicians, including Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, in taking a very skeptical attitude.
“If you keep spreading around hopes and expectations all the time and they cannot be realized, it only ends up causing disappointment and frustration,” Lieberman said. “From a diplomatic point of view, uncertainty is the most difficult period. Right now, there’s no chance of reaching a diplomatic arrangement with the Palestinians.”
Asked about the coalition’s staying power, he said it was too soon to tell. “This is not a traditional coalition. It takes time until all the components start working together in a synchronized fashion,” he said.