Israel’s new foreign minister, Yair Lapid, calls for rebuilding trust with partners

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  June 14, 2021

Lapid’s comments came as the Palestinian leadership hailed the end of ‘worst period’ for Israel-Palestinian relations.

Israel’s newly appointed foreign minister, Yair Lapid, has spoken of a need for Israel to reset its foreign relations, particularly with Democrats and American Jews in the United States.

Speaking to Israeli diplomats on Monday, Lapid said that outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had caused a major rift with many of those who should be Israel’s allies abroad and had left Israel reliant on the US Republican Party for support.

“The Republicans are important to us, but not just them. We find ourselves, as you well know, facing a Democratic White House, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic Congress,” he said.

“And these Democrats are angry.”

He said he had spoken to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the need “to build our relationship with the [US] government based on mutual respect and on better dialogue”.

He added that a similar process needed to take place with regards to Europe.

“Shouting that ‘everyone is antisemitic’ is not a policy and not a work plan, even if sometimes it feels right,” he said.

“I spoke last night with EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell. I was writing to French President Emmanuel Macron – we all think there needs to be a change, an improvement, to deepen the dialogue between Israel and Europe.” 

‘Worst period’ of conflict

Lapid’s comments came as Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the ousting of Netanyahu had closed the chapter on one of the “worst periods” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The departure of the Israeli prime minister after 12 years in power marks the end of one of the worst periods in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Shtayyeh said on Monday, ahead of the Palestinian Authority’s weekly cabinet meeting.

On Sunday, the Israeli parliament voted in a new government led by far-right politician Naftali Bennett, who is heading a coalition consisting of an unlikely alliance of parties from left to right. 

Bennett, an ultra-nationalist, will head the new cabinet for a little over two years before Lapid takes over. 

Shtayyeh added that he was under no illusions about the likely political direction of the new government.

“We do not see this new government as any less bad than the previous one, and we condemn the announcements of the new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in support of Israeli settlements,” he said, referring to illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“The new government has no future if it does not take into consideration the future of the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights.”

Further to the right

Bennett and his allies stem from the settler movement that has expanded in the West Bank by the hundreds of thousands since Israel captured it in 1967.

His rise to the premiership has raised fears among many that he will push the Israeli government further to right than it even was under Netanyahu

Ayelet Shaked, a close ally of Bennett and member of his Yamina party, was appointed interior minister on Monday.

At a ceremony marking her replacement of Aryeh Deri, she said that she would “work to promote a responsible policy while meeting humanitarian needs” and emphasized that Israel was a “Jewish and democratic” state.

She added that she would “work to return infiltrators to their countries”, a term often used by right-wingers to refer to migrants, mainly from Africa, living in Israel.

“We must defend the borders and the country,” she said.