Lapid: Israel must attend Arab League meeting, push for regional accord

Ben Sales

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Former Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid answered questions from English speakers on his Facebook page, promising to advance civil unions and a regional peace accord should he serve in Israel’s next government.

In his online answers Tuesday, Lapid called for an Israeli delegation to attend an upcoming Arab League summit in March. He wrote that his centrist Yesh Atid party supports a regional peace agreement that guarantees Israel’s security and includes major West Bank settlement blocs in Israel’s borders.

“We believe any solution must be regional,” he wrote. “The Arab League is meeting in March and it will be the first meeting that [Egyptian] President [Abdel Fatah al-] Sisi is chairing. Israel should be there to make the case for a regional agreement which guarantees our security.”

Yesh Atid served in the governing coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until the government dissoved in acrimony last month. While Lapid did not rule out joining a left- or right-wing coalition, he said he hopes Netanyahu does not win another term.

“We will do all we can to make sure Netanyahu isn’t prime minister after these elections,” he wrote during the question-and answer session Tuesday evening. “The process of building a coalition should take place after the elections and depends on the choices the Israeli voters make. Governing isn’t about personality, it’s about serving the best interests of the Israeli public.”

Lapid wrote that “Israel has no more important strategic ally than the United States and we have to work to maintain that relationship.” He added that any disagreements between the countries should not be made public.

Lapid also said the party would continue to try to advance a bill instituting civil unions in Israel, which currently allows only Orthodox marriage for Jews. He wrote that his previous attempts at the civil unions bill were blocked by the religious Zionist Jewish Home party, which also served in the governing coalition.

“We were in the process of putting forward legislation for civil unions for all couples,” he wrote. “We plan to work hard on this issue in the next Knesset because it’s something we as a party care deeply about.”