There are misconceptions that the rise of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which is now the second biggest party in the Knesset, will somehow result in a renewed liberal conviction in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Onlookers should be cautious. It is a good thing that a strong center party is now in the mix, but it’s important to remember that Lapid’s success was due to his belief in the need for government reform, not peacemaking ideology. He might be able to obstruct the increasing radicalism of the right, but at the end of the day Likud-Beiteinu (whose members have openly stated their desire to kill a two-state solution) is still in power.
Lapid is a breath of fresh air when one considers that it could have just as easily been Naftali Bennett in his position, who likely scared voters off with his West Bank annexation talk. But it is not as if the Yesh Atid head stole Knesset seats from Bennett by challenging his radical annexation beliefs. In fact, he remained largely quiet about it throughout his campaign.
So, the more I think about it the more I begin to realize that voters didn’t choose Lapid (who basically shares the same ideas on domestic issues as Bennett) because of his burning desire to make progress with the Palestinians, but because he wasn’t controversial on the matter. He stuck to the status quo. As was described to me by Rabbi Dov Lipman, a newly appointed Yesh Atid Knesset minister who hails from Silver Springs, Maryland, “The working plan on the table right now is two states for two people, and our goal is to find every imaginable way to get to negotiations. Not rush to anything, this is not the flag issue for our campaign either, but to work on a two-state solution and internationally recognized agreement, and get that in to place.”
For Lapid to really solidify himself with Israelis he has to make good on his campaign promises for domestic change, which doesn’t include getting peace talks with the Palestinians restarted. So, while he is sure to be a moderating voice, Lapid will not likely risk a coalition collapse over the issue.
Young Americans like Yair Lapid. I like Yair Lapid. He’s good for Israel and it’s clear that he represents change in Israeli politics. What’s not clear is whether he represents change in the peace process, which in my opinion is the most important thing to securing Israel’s future as a sovereign Jewish democracy.
The above article was taken from Jspace.com. The article was written by Jspace Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Rob Lattin, who also blogs about Israeli and Middle Eastern foreign policy for Foreign Policy Blogs.
Photo: The New York Times