A leading Israeli opposition figure said Monday that embattled Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has turned a U.S. initiative for ending conflict with the Palestinians into a campaign “stunt” by pushing for the immediate annexation of parts of Yehuda and Shomron.
Co-leader of the Blue and White party Yair Lapid insisted he was against unilateral steps endangering what he described as President Donald Trump’s promising Mideast plan. He expressed hope that the Palestinians would come around to negotiating based upon the U.S. blueprint.
Lapid is slated to become Israel’s next foreign minister if his party prevails in the March 2 election and fellow party leader Benny Gantz wins the premiership.
“Nobody expects Israel or the Palestinians to take the plan face value the way it is and just make sure it happens. Everybody understands this is a framework, a very detailed one,” he told an audience of foreign correspondents in Yerushalayim, before zeroing in on Netanyahu.
Lapid went on to condemn what he said was the prime minister’s “unilateral steps” toward annexation: “This is something that came out from the prime minister’s office right after the plan was presented. Probably, it seems, for campaign reasons. And this is something you don’t do. This is too serious to become a stunt in the campaign,” he added.
Although Netanyahu did move for a cabinet vote on the peace plan days after its unveiling, he canceled the vote and appeared to accept Washington’s subsequently expressed desire that implementation should begin after the March 2 elections, and only in coordination with the U.S.
Lapid, whose party is seeking to unseat Netanyahu, would not detail how his vision differed from Netanyahu’s beyond saying he would favor direct negotiation with the Palestinians rather than imposing a framework upon them.
“We are against anything that is unilateral,” he said.
At the same time, he called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to drop his intransigence, realize that time is not working in his favor and take a serious look at the plan as a basis for talks.
“Our approach to the Palestinians is to tell them that always saying ‘no’ isn’t a policy,” he said. “If instead of always automatically responding with violence and threats, they will take the time to delve deeply into the Trump plan they will see that it contains many opportunities for the Palestinian people.”