Lapid: No settlement freeze for peace talks

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said he opposes a settlement freeze, but that thousands of settlers would have to leave their homes in a peace deal.

Lapid made the remarks in an interview with The New York Times published Monday — his first with the foreign media since taking office in February.

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Israel should not change its policy on West Bank settlements in order to revive the peace process, Lapid told the newspaper’s Jerusalem Bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren. He also said Jerusalem should not serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Lapid called for the creation of an interim Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank where no Jews live, with final borders drawn in up to five years. He also suggested it would be difficult to sign a peace deal with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who he called “one of the founding fathers of the victimizing concept of the Palestinians.”

The Times reported that Lapid said he “would not stop the so-called ‘natural expansion’ of settlements in the West Bank, nor curtail the financial incentives offered Israelis to move there.”

He called “heartbreaking” the eventual need to remove tens of thousands of Jews from what he called “remote settlements.”

Lapid said he hopes to be Israel’s next prime minister, but “I’m in no hurry.” The current government can serve for up to five years.