Lapid: U.S. Presidential Transition Time ‘Dangerous’ for Israel

The last three months of President Barack Obama’s term – known as presidential interregnum – will be critical and could have “dangerous” implications for Israel, one of Israel’s leading opposition leaders said on Wednesday.

“The transition time of an American president is always a dangerous time for us,” Knesset Member and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid said in a conference call hosted by the Israel Policy Forum on Wednesday. “Even Ronald Reagan, who was a great friend of Israel, recognized the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) in his transition time.”

Lapid was referring to speculations that President Obama may refocus his attention after the November elections on the failed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Obama’s four options are, according to Lapid, do nothing, let Sec. Of State John Kerry have another try at restarting direct peace talks, outline parameters in a presidential speech – his own version of the Bill Clinton parameters before leaving office, or go to the UN Security Council.

Going to the UN would be the “worst possibility” for Israel, even if the resolution does not impose sanctions on Israel for settlement activity but calls them illegal, Lapid said. “The damage would be huge — and this is counterproductive, even for those of us who believe Israel needs separate itself from the Palestinians and understand that this separation has to do with evacuating settlements,” he said. “It won’t be able to define the difference between the [large settlement] blocs and the more isolated settlements that are going to be part of a future Palestinian state. This is the worst possibility of them all, and I really hope that the United States will (a) not take this path and (b) if somebody else will, will veto it before.”

Lapid, who will be challenging Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister in the next Knesset elections, also noted that the current relationship between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration needs to be addressed, but refused not to go into details as a principle not to attack the Israeli government when talking to foreign press or when overseas.

Asked what American Jews need to know about the current U.S.-Israel relationship, Lapid told Jewish Insider, “Right now, what we need is a more functional foreign ministry here in Israel that will have a better dialogue with the state department” as well as a better dialogue between the Israeli government and the White House, “in which both sides understand nobody is there to educate the other.”

“We are friends and allies and should be treated as such,” he asserted. “And I think a significant amount of good manners wouldn’t be a bad idea – in the last five-six years.”

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