Lapid Backs Two-State Solution with Palestinians in UN Speech

Prime Minister of Israel Yair Lapid addresses the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. (Reuters/Mike Segar)

(Reuters/Hamodia) – Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called on Thursday for a two-state solution to decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reasserted that Israel would do “whatever it takes” to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

His mention of a two-state solution, the first by an Israeli leader in years at the United Nations General Assembly, echoed U.S. President Joe Biden’s support in Israel in August for the long-dormant proposal.

“An agreement with the Palestinians, based on two states for two peoples, is the right thing for Israel’s security, for Israel’s economy and for the future of our children,” Lapid said.

“We have only one condition: that a future Palestinian state will be a peaceful one. That it will not become another terror base from which to threaten the well-being and the very existence of Israel. That we will have the ability to protect the security of all the citizens of Israel, at all times.”

“You can ask us to live according to the values in the U.N. Charter,” he said, “but you cannot ask us to die for them.”

In his speech, Lapid again denounced Iran and voiced Israel’s determination to prevent its longtime foe from gaining a nuclear weapon.

“The only way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is to put a credible military threat on the table,” he said. “We have capabilities and we are not afraid to use them.

“It needs to be made clear to Iran, that if it advances its nuclear program, the world will not respond with words, but with military force.”

After lauding the success of a recent Negev Summit which led to agreements for promoting ties among Israel and the participating five Arab countries, he asserted:

“The Middle East is our home, We are here to stay. Forever.  And we call upon every Muslim country — from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia — to recognize that, and to come talk to us. Our hand is outstretched for peace.”

Lapid denounced the “fake news” that fills the news and social media, backed with vast amounts of money, defaming Israel and stoking hatred toward it.

Toward the end of his speech, Lapid told the Palestinian terrorist groups, who regularly complain about Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, blaming it for the poverty in the Hamas-run enclave:

“Put down your weapons, there will be no restrictions.

Put down your weapons, bring home our children who are being held in captivity – Hadar and Oron Hy”d, may their memory be a blessing; Avera and Hisham, who are still alive – and we will build your economy together.”

Reaction to the speech from the Palestinians, who blame Israel for the stagnation of the peace process, was negative.

Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters that Lapid’s words “mean nothing.”

“Whoever wants a two-state solution must implement it on the ground,” he said, by respecting previously reached agreements, stopping settlement expansion and recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

By contrast, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides called Lapid’s speech “courageous” for supporting the two-state solution.

Within Israel, which approaches a general election on November 1, reaction was split predictably along ideological lines.

Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu charged that Lapid is “endangering” Israel’s future by renewing discussion of Palestinian statehood.

Netanyahu said that “Lapid is bringing the Palestinians back to the forefront of the world stage and putting Israel right into the Palestinian pit,” in a video message released while the latter spoke at the U.N.

The former prime minister, who is running for reelection, warned that Lapid “is going to give them a terrorist state in the heart of the country, a state that will threaten us all.”

Religious Zionism party leader Betzalel Smotrich, a member of Netanyahu’s right-religious electoral bloc, denounced Lapid’s speech as a “shameful surrender to terrorism.”

He accused the interim prime minister of “striving for the division of the land, the handing over of territories and the expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews from their homes,” in Yehuda and Shomron.

Smotrich said that reviving the issue of a Palestinian state and the “instilling hope in the sails of Palestinian nationalism” will lead to further terrorism.

“We will find ourselves again with buses exploding and terror all over the country,” Smotrich said.

On the left, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon welcomed Lapid’s endorsement of the two-state solution as “historic.”

“Finally, the vision of peace is on the agenda,” Galon, a member of Lapid’s coalition, tweeted. “To put an end to the cycle of bloodshed, to end control over millions of Palestinians, and to years of pain and bereavement on both sides.”

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