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Lapid Praises Egyptian Peace Initiative, Warns Against Legitimizing Iran in DC Speech

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s recent push for new peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is “promising,” former Israeli finance minister Yair Lapid said Wednesday during a public Q&A at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Lapid, who for years has been promoting a regional peace summit involving Egypt and Jordan, welcomed Sisi’s speech, though he insisted that any such summit should not impose terms on Israel. Israelis would favor such a regional summit, he said, as it could open the Israeli economy up to a market as large as the European Union.

He noted that the nuclear deal with Iran, which he opposed, had caused relations between Israel and Sunni states to warm, adding that ties in the Middle East are no longer defined by the view that “you’re either my friend or you’re my enemy.” Lapid emphasized the importance of enforcing the deal and ensuring that it doesn’t legitimize the “idea that Iran is okay now,” given Iran’s continued support for terror and ongoing human rights abuses.

Lapid spoke of the need for Israel and the United States to complete the new “memorandum of understanding” that would lay out future American military aid to help Israel. It will need to address the “new issues we are facing” in the wake of the nuclear deal, Lapid said, adding that “advanced weapons that come into the Middle East will fall into the wrong hands sooner or later. Probably sooner.” The growing capabilities of Hezbollah, which Lapid said gained years of combat experience due to its participation in Syria’s civil war, were particularly concerning.

When asked about the possibility of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, which he previously proposed, Lapid answered that Israel already had a “bad experience” when it withdrew from Gaza. Israel left 3,000 greenhouses to give Gazans the opportunity to build lives for themselves, but instead, Gaza became better known for training terrorists and building terror tunnels. While Lapid still supports the idea of separation between Israel and the Palestinians, he said that Israel would have to have the freedom to operate on the other side of the border so that separation does not become a bigger threat.

At the end of the talk, Lapid addressed the topic of the anti-Israel boycott campaign, acknowledging the work that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies did in exposing ties between anti-Israel activists and supporters of Hamas. The campaign is not a civil rights movement, Lapid said, but one that is “about delegitimizing Israel until there is no Israel.” This is something “we cannot allow,” he added.

Lapid’s complete talks is embedded below.

[Photo: Foundation for Defense of Democracies ]