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Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid backs two-state solution

Lapid says backing an independent Palestinian state was 'right thing for Israel's security'
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid gives a speech during the 77th session of the General Assembly at UN headquarters on September 22, 2022 in New York City (AFP)
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New York City

Israel's Prime Minister Yair Lapid has thrown his support behind a two-state solution to the conflict with Palestine, in his speech to the 77th United Nations General Assembly.

“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 delegates.

"Despite all the obstacles, still today a large majority of Israelis support the vision of this two-state solution. I am one of them,” he said.

"Put down your weapons and prove that Hamas and Islamic Jihad is not going to take over the Palestinian state you want to create… and there will be peace," Lapid said.

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His comments come as many warn prospects for a two-state solution are shrinking as a result of illegal Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank, the intended future home of a Palestinian state.

Tensions in the region have flared in recent weeks, with armed clashes breaking out between Palestinian security forces and protesters.

Israeli leaders have generally avoided references to the two-state solution at the General Assembly. Lapid made the remarks as he prepares to enter a close election with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lapid went on to say that any agreement with the Palestinians over a two-state solution would be conditional: "That a future Palestinian state will be a peaceful one. That it will not become another terror base from which to threaten the well-being and the very existence of Israel. That we will have the ability to protect the security of all the citizens of Israel, at all times."

In his speech, Lapid also took aim at what he called "the anti-Israel movement", which he said "has been spreading lies for years in the media on college campuses and on social media" about Israel.

He challenged critics to "come and visit" the country, while praising steps by Middle Eastern and other Muslim-majority states to normalise ties with Israel. Lapid began his speech by referencing the Negev Summit, held in Israel in March with diplomats from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.

Iran

Lapid went on to warn world leaders about engaging with Iran over its nuclear programme, accusing them of "choosing the easy option" in dealing with Tehran.

He called for countries to issue "a credible military threat" to the Islamic Republic "and then - and only then - to negotiate a longer and stronger deal with them", he said.

"It needs to be made clear to Iran that if it advances its nuclear programme, the world will not respond with words, but with military force," said the prime minister. "Every time a threat like that was put on the table in the past, Iran stopped and retreated."

Lapid reiterated Israel's position, that it would act against Iran regardless of talks between Tehran and Western powers.

"We will do whatever it takes," he said. "Iran will not get a nuclear weapon."

He accused Tehran's leadership of conducting an "orchestra of hate" against Jews, and said Iran's ideologues "hate and kill Muslims who think differently, like Salman Rushdie and Mahsa Amini".

The Israeli leader's reference to Amini, who died following her arrest by Iran's morality police last week after claims she had violated the country's dress code for women, comes as Iran is engulfed in some of the largest protests since 2019.