Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid hit out at external threats to the country’s economy in a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times Friday.
“There is a lot of plain old-fashioned anti-semitism out there disguised as peace-loving, pro-whatever, 1960s kind of slogans that is hurting us,” he said. “You don’t want to have more things like this EU decision, and you don’t want to have markets closed down.”
While rejecting the claim that the country has been harmed economically by attempts to isolate it, Lapid didn’t outright dismiss the possibility in the future.
“We are not there yet,” he said, but added: “I’m not going to pretend that this doesn’t hurt us.”
Lapid was highly critical of the recent EU move to adopt guidelines limiting its involvement with Israeli institutions situated beyond the Green Line, saying it had hurt prospects for reaching a peace deal by emboldening radical groups that oppose a two-state solution.
“What does it say to the Islamic Jihad and Hamas and all those people who really want to stop the negotiation?” he asked. “It allows them to go to [Palestinian President] Abu Mazen and tell him, ‘See, you don’t need to do anything; all you need to do is sit on the sidelines and wait until the Jewish state will suffocate from the international pressure.”
Lapid was also critical of his own government, claiming that Israel’s presence in the West Bank has become detrimental to its cause.
“We cannot and do not want to rule three-and-a-half million Palestinians forever,” Mr Lapid said. “This is harming us terribly internationally, and it threatens the concept of Israel as a Jewish state and I want to live in a Jewish state — I’m a zionist.”
Lapid was candid about his early experience in politics, telling the FT, “I knew I would be beaten and battered during the process. But this is a nasty process: this is raising taxes, this is expense cutting, this is all the things everybody hates. You get more than a little bruised during this process, and you take comfort in knowing you did the right thing.”
He added: “This is not just about being out on the street and wearing the right T-shirt and being right, which is more fun than being in government,” he said. “Being in government means doing things that are hard and will be unpopular, and I do not complain.”
Lapid estimates that his political party Yesh Atid “lost between 15 and 20 per cent of our voters,” but maintains confidence in the direction it is taking, confirming his interest in one day becoming prime minister.
“I came into politics because I want to change things, so I want to be in the place where I can be the most effective in changing things,” he said.