Barak Ravid
Haaretz (Opinion)
January 28, 2013 - 1:00am

Throughout his election campaign Yair Lapid insisted on his adamant opposition to the partition of Jerusalem under any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Back in February 2012, when he first began communicating with potential voters, he declared that Jerusalem "belongs to the people of Israel and no one else."

Months later, giving a campaign speech in the West Bank city of Ariel in October 2012, he underlined the message:

"The second principle is that Jerusalem will remain under Israeli sovereignty and will not be divided. Jerusalem is not only a place, it's also an idea, it is the heartbeat around which the new State of Israel was built. The return to Zion was not to [Tel Aviv's] Azrieli Towers but to the Tower of David, and the heart of Jerusalem is also the heart of Israel."

A week later, speaking to Israel's Council for Peace and Security, the founder of Yesh Atid explained how the Palestinians can be made to relinquish their demand for East Jerusalem as their capital:

"Why did Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) suddenly say that he no longer demands the right of return for Palestinian refugees? It was because the Palestinians recognized there was a complete consensus in Israel on the issue, so he moved on to the next tope. The same should apply to Jerusalem …We must not blink. There should be no compromises in Jerusalem. If the Palestinians understand that unless they give up on Jerusalem they won't have a state, they will relinquish that demand as well."

In an interview to Germany's Der Speigel from May 2008, Lapid expressed a contradictory position. Speaking together with his mother, the author Shulamit Lapid, and his late father, the journalist-turned-politician Yosef "Tommy" Lapid, Yair Lapid unequivocally supported the division of Jerusalem and fiercely attacked the Jewish West Bank settlers whose votes he courted in his recent election campaign.

"The greatest tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that everyone knows how it will end. We will divide up the region. Israel will return most of the West Bank, and the Palestinian flag will fly on public buildings in East Jerusalem. The only unanswered question is how many more people will have to die along the way. And so we will fight against the extremists on both sides, including our extremists, the settlers."

Could Lapid be adopting the tactics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, taking a soft, moderate stance when speaking to a foreign journalist, in English, but talking tough when the language is Hebrew and the audience is local?

A possible answer comes from Yesh Atid's own "Mr. Security," the former Shin Bet security service chief Jacob Perry. Israeli Peace Initiative, an organization that counts Perry among its leaders, calls explicitly for Israel to accept the Arab League peace initiative, which includes the division of Jerusalem.

In an interview to Israeli journalist Oshrat Kotler broadcast on Israel Channel 10 television on Saturday, Perry explained that Lapid's stated position on Jerusalem was the starting point for negotiations:

"When we speak about a unified Jerusalem we mean what we say," Perry said. "I know the Palestinians see things differently. We will enter negotiations and present our position as written in the party platform. Still, just as in the coalition negotiations there might be issues on which we might have to agree to compromise, or to reject, in negotiating with the Palestinians, today's declarations, I believe, might be altered one way or another," Perry said

In response to a request for comments, Lapid adviser Nili Reichman said only, "We stand behind the political platform of Yesh Atid."


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