Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday broke United Nations history and became the first Israeli leader to hail the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, prompting an outcry from lawmakers to the right of him who accused him of endangering the Jewish state.
“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 at the UN General Assembly in New York.
“Despite all the obstacles, still today a large majority of Israelis support the vision of this two-state solution. I am one of them.”
He went on to say that a future Palestinian state must not become “another terror base from which to threaten the well being, and the very existence of Israel.”
“We will have the ability to protect the security of all the citizens of Israel, at all times,” he said.
“You can ask us to live according to the values in the UN Charter, but you cannot ask us to die for them,” he added. “We want to live in peace but only if it gives us security, not if it threatens us even more.”
“Peace is not a compromise. It is the most courageous decision we can make.”
Lapid said Israel was ready to lift the restrictions on Gaza, which is ruled by the Hamas terror group.
“We’re ready to do more than that,” he added. “I say from here to the people of Gaza, we’re ready to help you build a better life, to build an economy. We presented a comprehensive plan to help rebuild Gaza. We only have one condition: Stop firing rockets and missiles at our children. Put down your weapons, there will be no restrictions,” he said.
“Israel seeks peace with our neighbors – all our neighbors. We are not going anywhere, the Middle East is our home. We are here to stay, forever,” he said.
“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 addressed the nuclear threat posed by Iran and accused the United Nations of turning a blind eye to Tehran’s anti-Israel declarations.
“There is only one member-state in the UN that openly states its wish to destroy another member-state. Iran has declared time and time again that it is interested in the ‘total destruction’ of the State of Israel, and this building is silent.”
He continued, “What are you afraid of? Has there ever been a time in human history where silence stopped violence?”
“If the Iranian regime gets a nuclear weapon, they will use it,” he said. “The only way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, is to put a credible military threat on the table. And then – and only then – to negotiate a ‘longer and stronger’ deal with 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,” the prime minister said. “Every time a threat like that was put on the table in the past, Iran stopped and retreated.”
He accused the West of choosing the “easy option” by signing a nuclear deal with Iran and choosing “not to believe the worst, despite all the evidence to the contrary.”
‘Putting Israel right into the Palestinian pit’
Lapid extolled Israel’s diverse population and inclusiveness.
“A country in which Jews, Muslims and Christians live together with full civic equality,” he said. “In the government which I lead, there are Arab ministers. There is an Arab party as a member of our coalition. We have Arab judges in our Supreme Court, Arab doctors saving lives in our hospitals. Israeli Arabs are not our enemies, they are our partners in life.”
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Lapid’s remarks about Palestinian statehood, and accused the prime minister of “endangering” Israel’s future by “bringing the Palestinians back to the forefront of the world stage and putting Israel right into the Palestinian pit.”
Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich said that a Palestinian state constituted a “shameful surrender to terrorism.”
Lapid is “seeking the division of the land, the handing over of territories and the expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews from their homes.”
“We will find ourselves again with buses exploding and terror attacks all over the country,” Smotrich warned.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said that establishing a “terror state in Judea and Samaria would endanger Israel’s safety and that most Israeli people and their representatives will not allow that to happen.”