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Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon addresses the 2016 Conference of Presidents Leadership Mission to Israel. Credit: Tamir Hayoun

Yair Lapid Rejects Palestinian Capital in East Jerusalem

In an address before B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and more than 100 Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations delegates on the second day of its 42nd consecutive annual Leadership Mission to Israel, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that Israel will not intervene in the Syrian civil war, though Israel is supplying humanitarian support.
“Syria will leave us with two bad options: we will have either Daesh or Iran on our border,” Yaalondeclared, and he also said that Israel will not tolerate the delivery of chemical agents to any combatants, nor will Israel tolerate disturbances on its borders. He told the audience that in the last two years there have been 20 attacks on Israel’s borders by Iran and its proxies, which is why Israel strongly rejects the current political process led by Russia.
Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Yaalon detailed the incitement and manipulation that emanates from the Palestinian Authority. He said they continue to educate their children that Tel Aviv has been occupied since 1948, and it is Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who rejects the two- state solution and denies that Israel is a Jewish state for the Jewish people.
The defense minister also said that Israel is grateful for its close relationship with the United States and that he expects the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) discussions around the next decade of U.S. – Israel cooperation to be completed this spring. “We know what we want, the U.S. knows what it is willing to share with us,” he said.
Yaalon was one of three high-ranking Israeli government officials to address the delegation on Feb. 15 today. Gilad Erdan, who is simultaneously Israel’s minister of public security, minister of strategic affairs and minister of information, and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid were the other two.
Erdan focused on the fight against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). “Both BDS and what some are calling ‘lone wolf’ attacks stem from the same foundation: the de-legitimization of Israel and the denial of the Jewish people to have a state,” he said. Demanding that social media take responsibility for their part in allowing people to use them for terror, he explained that the technological capability and basic willingness on the part of Facebook and Twitter is there, but it is taking time for them to understand how severe the situation is.
Erdan praised the conference’s anti-delegitimization efforts, noting its programs such as America’s Voices, which organizes week-long missions to Israel for prominent headline makers with widespread credibility from various fields; its lawfare initiative; and Grapevine, a pro-Israel website geared toward the younger generation.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told the delegation that even though some consider the recent Iran deal an Israeli loss, “I fought shoulder to shoulder with the government against this deal. I don’t think Israel has lost, I think the world has lost.”
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict he said that Israel must maintain the security situation, and that there would not be a second disengagement—no more unilateral withdrawal. “We left 3000 greenhouses in Gaza to help build the Palestinian economy; instead they shot 25,000 missiles and built tunnels.” On Jerusalem, he said the majority of Israelis will not agree to divide the city, “so that is off the table and we will have to compromise somewhere else.” When pressed as to why he rejects the possibility of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, he declared, “because it’s ours.”
Lapid, critical of previous negotiations, doesn’t think the two-state solution is dead, but said he would not pre-negotiate a settlement in the media.
Extensive, wide ranging expert panels and discussions on Iran post-Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Mideast Regional situation and dynamics, anti-Semitism and BDS, and Israel’s social fabric were also conducted throughout the day.
The proven and effective voice of organized American Jewry for six decades, the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations, of which B’nai B’rith is a member, advances the interests of the American Jewish Community, promotes broad-based support for Israel, and addresses critical concerns facing Israel and world Jewry.
The delegation will be in Israel through Feb. 18 and will be meeting with high-level Israeli leaders, academics, diplomats and opinion makers across the political spectrum. 
(This statement is being shared, with permission, from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.)