NEW YORK—Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid laid out his own vision for a durable peace agreement with the Palestinians as he delivered his address to the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday.
“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 told the international gathering.
He claimed that a large majority of Israelis support the vision of a two-state solution, without specifying its details. Under its broad globally accepted definition, it refers to a Jewish state for Israelis and a Palestinian state for Palestinian Arabs based on the pre-1967 border with East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital.
Just minutes after the speech concluded, a Palestinian was suspected of carrying out a terror attack near the central Israeli city of Modi'in. Three people were injured, and the suspect was reportedly killed.
The Israeli premier noted in his address that Israel has only one condition in order to pursue this solution down the road, saying “a future Palestinian state will be a peaceful one.”
Lapid invoking of the ‘Two States’ terminology marks the first time in years in which an Israeli premier has broadly addressed the Palestinian issue on the world stage. But it is also something new. In 2016, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his speech to the U.N. said, “I remain committed to the vision of peace based on two states for two peoples.”
Lapid's speech comes one day after U.S. President Joe Biden mentioned the term in his speech at the U.N. as well.
Biden said that “a negotiated two-state solution remains in our view the best way to ensure Israel’s security and prosperity… and give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled.”
The previous Israeli and American governments, led by Netanyahu and former President Donald Trump, rejected the use of the term 'two-state solution.'
In 2019, it was Trump’s advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner who famously said: “If you say ‘two-state’, it means one thing to the Israelis, it means one thing to the Palestinians.”
Lapid’s mention of the term at the U.N. was met with criticism from right-wing lawmakers in Israel, who believe it is strategically wrong to revive the terminology on the world stage, even though Netanyahu made use of it years ago in his own national and international addresses.
In a widely remembered speech in 2009 at the Bar Ilan University, Netanyahu declared for the first time: “If we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state.”
Nonetheless, on Wednesday, Israel’s Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said in a video that “Yair Lapid speaks only for himself when he supports a Palestinian state. This is just a meaningless election stunt. We will never allow the creation of a Palestinian terror state in the heart of the land of Israel. Such a state would be a hotbed of extremism, a launching pad for terror and a source of regional instability.”
Netanyahu, now leader of the opposition, posted a rebuttal to Lapid in Hebrew.
“Tonight we heard a speech that was all weakness, defeats and bowing. After the right-wing government that I led removed the Palestinian issue from the international agenda and brought four historic peace agreements with Arab states bypassing the Palestinian veto – Lapid is returning the Palestinians to the world’s center stage,” he said.
Netanyahu also slammed Lapid for “falling asleep for over a year” on the Iran nuclear threat.
“As opposed to us,” he said, “Lapid did not fight Iran in the U.S. Congress, U.S. media, U.S. Senate. He has done nothing.”
However, last week Lapid claimed Israel's campaign against signing a nuclear deal with Iran was "successful."
"Israel is conducting a successful diplomatic campaign to stop the nuclear agreement," Lapid wrote on Twitter before heading on a diplomatic trip to Germany.
Lapid, in fact, directed a large portion of his U.N. address at Iran. He told the international assembly that there are two major threats hanging over Israel.
“The first is the nuclear threat. The fear that terrorist states and terrorist organizations will get their hands on nuclear weapons. The second threat is the demise of truth,” he said.
“There is no country that has come under a greater attack of lies, with such a vast amount of money and effort being invested in spreading disinformation about it,” Lapid stressed, adding that Iran is “conducting this orchestra of hate.”
Lapid slammed the Iranian regime, saying “they even hate their own people.”
“Iran’s regime hates Jews, hates women, hates gay people, hates the West. They hate and kill Muslims who think differently, like Salman Rushdie and Mahsa Amini. Their hate is a way of life,” he said.
The Israeli premier also criticized U.N. member states for remaining silent as Iran openly states it is interested in the "total destruction" of the State of Israel.
“What are you afraid of? Has there ever been a time in human history where silence stopped violence?” he asked the General Assembly.
Lapid warned that if the Iranian regime gets a nuclear weapon, they will use it. He said that “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. Every time a threat like that was put on the table in the past, Iran stopped, and retreated,” he added.
Lapid lamented that today, “the world is choosing the easy option. It chooses not to believe the worst, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Israel does not have this privilege.”
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.