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Israel Cabinet Minister Lapid on Syria, Iran: Words not enough

September 17th, 2013
02:35 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

It may not be Yair Lapid’s job, but he certainly has a lot to say about foreign policy.

“If you want to negotiate you better have a big stick in your hand – or in this case a big Tomahawk,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour of negotiations with Syria on Tuesday. “It’s the Middle East; you have to have sticks with the carrots.”

Lapid, a former journalist and TV presenter, threw a wrench into Israeli politics when his upstart moderate party, Yesh Atid, took second place in the last election.

He is clearly a man with ambitions. He was widely rumored to have wanted the post of foreign minister; he was given finance. Most observers assume he covets the prime minister’s office.

So it’s no surprise that he has plenty to say about some of the top international issues on Israel’s agenda: Syria and Iran.

His views come down to this: Words are great, but we care about deeds.

“Unless there is a credible threat, all the negotiations [on Syria] are just empty words,” he said. “This is not over. It won’t be over until all weapons of mass destruction will be out of Syria. Then we will know this whole move has succeeded.”

Lapid repeated a point many have made about sticking to U.S. President Barack Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons: That not only Syria, but also Iran has to be shown that the world “will not be silent when regimes and dictatorships are gathering weapons of mass destruction.”

Rhetoric out of Iran has been surprisingly pleasant of late; the new president and foreign minister have taken their message of outreach to twitter, even wishing Jews a happy new year.

“Of course I rather have people tweeting me happy Rosh Hashanah or happy New Year instead of tweeting that they are, I don’t know, holocaust deniers as it was before,” Lapid told Amanpour. “I don’t want to be sour about everything, but is this the real thing?”

Once again, he said, words are great, but it comes down to actions.

“When the reactor in Qom will be closed, when they will stop enriching uranium, when they take off the enriched uranium they already have,” he said, “then we can discuss the fact whether we can all hold hands and sing hallelujah together.”

“I’m happy to listen to any new music coming from Iran,” Lapid said, “but this has to be backed by – not only by words but also by deeds.”

Of face-to-face negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – orchestrated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and thus far very secretive – Lapid put his faith in “low expectations.”

“The best things are happening when we have low expectations,” he said. “The fact that everybody is going around and telling each other, this is not going to work, this is not going to happen, is actually a good thing.”

With such strong views on foreign policy, of course, it’s easy to forget that Lapid’s day-to-day job is stewardship of Israel’s economy.

The issue of the day in Israel is who will lead the Central Bank; Lapid and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have failed to appoint a permanent leader since the last governor stepped down in June.

“This is a fine example to the fact that comedies are just tragedies in fast-forward,” Lapid said. “We have managed to choose two candidates who turn out to be the wrong candidates and they decided to withdraw, and now it’s going to take a few days or weeks more.”

So who, Amanpour asked, will be put forward to lead the bank?

“This has become the holy grail of all economic reporters in Israel,” Lapid toyed. “It was a nice try.”

Lapid was, however, more open to answer a question that he himself, during his career as a TV personality, was famous for asking.

“What symbolizes Israel for you today?”

“I’m going to choose the corniest answer that everybody gave me, which is my children. … Whenever I look at them, I see the reason why is it that I’m doing what I’m doing,” he told Amanpour. “Everyone’s a bit cynic when he’s in the media. I’m not anymore.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iran • Israel • Latest Episode • Syria
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Billy


    September 17, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Reply
    • George

      You are right.. Both Assad and Rouhani are warmongers. No doubt about that.

      September 18, 2013 at 9:31 am | Reply
      • michal cohen

        yair lapid is the same as mursy. we are in israel saying the same thing as the egiptian people said to mursy-yair lapid words not enough.

        September 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
      • David

        The International Community has to demand that Israel get rid of it's weapons of mass destruction and stop it's warmongering. Everyone in America knows Israel are warmongers as we saw in the Syria Crisis, while the World was protesting for Peace... AIPAC, Anti-Defamation League, other Zionist affiliates and Israel were the only one's lobbying for war

        September 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • David

      AIPAC, Anti-Defamation League, other Zionist affiliates and Israel were the only one's lobbying for war in America

      September 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Reply
  2. He's smoking marijuana!!!!!!!!

    he wont admit it but he is!!!!

    September 17, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Reply
  3. michal cohen

    Israeli music has changed now...we don't like yair lapid anymore.. we have learned that yair lapid is appears to be a man of the old system.. that take money from the poor and give it to rich..
    yair is now in situation of Political survival...he know that he is not going to be the next prime minister. The main problem of yair lapid is- that he didn’t realized how much the israeli state of mind has changed, his last action came from a place of a man that don’t understand that we are not going to be fooled
    (sorry for my speling, but you know what i mean).

    September 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Reply
    • Liran Rosenzweig

      I'm far from being a Lapid supporter, but there's no other way to keep the economy on its feets than Netanyahu's and Lapid's way. any other way would lead to a huge unemployment, deep recession so you'd miss and yearn for the current problems of cost-of-living. the socialist way of thinking never worked. you may have to study basic economics before judging anyone else.

      September 17, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Reply
      • michal cohen

        i don't agree with you. you are talking like yair lapid, your answer to me is an answer that we are not believe in it anymore. you are trying to sale to me propaganda that sound like a joke this days.
        like mr assad. who tries to sale the world the idea that the revolutionary in sirya used the chemical weapon. not him.
        You and assad using the same cheep propaganda, that you have to understand that don't work on the common people anymore

        September 17, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • George

      Take an English-Hebrew dictionary and translate the following: short term pain for long term gain. If you cannot comprehend that, bad luck . . .

      September 18, 2013 at 9:33 am | Reply
      • michal cohen

        We are hearing this commercial for many many years, even before yair lapid's father planned to be the next prime minister of Israel. And this is a very very long term that they are selling us this propaganda.
        The bottom line is:
        The rich became richer and the poor became poorest.
        This is the bottom line.
        You can't argue with the bottom line.
        And again, sorry for my speling, but you know what I Mean.

        September 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
      • michal cohen

        לקוראים הישראלים שבינכם:
        תחשבו על יאיר לפיד. הוא הבן של טומי לפיד. טומי לפיד היה עיתונאי. כשיאיר לפיד התגייס לצבא הוא התגייס לעיתון במחנה ושימש ככתב. כפי שאתם בטח יודעים הרבה צעירים שיש להם תשוקה לעיתונאות מאוד רוצים להתקבל לעיתון במחנה. סביר להניח שיש תנאי קבלה לעיתון במחנה. יאיר לפיד, למרות שאין לו תעודת בגרות הוא התקבל, סביר להניח שהיו עוד מועמדים במחזור של יאיר לפיד שלא התקבלו למרות שעל בטוח היה להם תעודת בגרות. במקרה אחר לא הייתי מלינה על העניין כי הרבה פעמים תעודת בגרות אינה מעידה על כישורים. יכול אדם שאין לו תעודת בגרות והוא הרבה יותר אינטלגנט מאדם שיש לו תעודת בגרות, היום כבר למדו את העניין ומבטלים אותה. כאמור לא הייתי מלינה על העניין אם לא היה מדובר בבנו של טומי לפיד העיתונאי. אם יאיר לפיד לא היה בנו של טומי לפיד, סביר להניח שלא היה מתקבל לעיתון במחנה, הוא לא היה עומד בתנאי הסף. ואם כך, סביר להניח שלא היה מגיש תוכנית אירוח, סביר להניח שלא היה קריין חדשות, סביר להניח שלא היה שר אוצר. את דרכו של יאיר לפיד מישהו סלל. למשעולי חייו של יאיר לפיד אין כל קשר לכשרונו. ואם כך הדבר, זה אומר שבעוד עשרים שנה נראה את בנו של יאיר לפיד שר בממשלה של הבן של הבן נתניהו. אבל תחשבו יותר עמוק.. אדם שנבחר בגלל מוצאו ולא בגלל כשרונו, סביר להניח שיהיה מנהיג לא משהו בלשון המעטה..ועוד נקודה למחשבה, האנשים שמתנגדים לאפליה מתקנת בהקשר למזרחים מסיבה שאדם צריך להיבחר בשל כשרונו ולא בשל מוצאו, חייבים להתנגד ליאיר לפיד שנבחר לעיתון במחנה בשל מוצאו.
        ותבינו, יאיר לפיד כישוריו הטיבעיים הם להיות חייל קרבי. בחור שרירי.. קרטיסט.. מתאגרף.. לא חבל, היה יכול להיות קרבי..

        September 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  4. Norma Lee

    Mr. Lapid,..Are you missing the elephant in the room? .....people who live in blacked out glass houses ..sure have kutzpah throwing stones..

    September 17, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Reply
  5. redwood509

    No need to be too harsh, the fella is a novice, he accepted a challenge way too big for his limited background, with all the criticism, he did better than the Community organizing Obama who never had a real day job, never ran a lemonade stand like Erdogan-Istanbul, it is not easy to move from comedy to politics in one year. With all his faults he is not half the clown that Al gore (Stars and Stripes) used to be, and I have no doubts that CNN will not report of seedy affairs with masseurs in hotels like V.P Gore, a retired loser. Lapid is trying and he knows the job is way too big for his size. Give the man a break. You all gave Obama a break, and see how he managed to completely destroy the entire Middle East, the U.S economy ad its entire health services. Sadly, Lapid's father, Tommy (RIP) was 10 times smarter, more cultured, better read, a true world class thinker, if he was alive, he could have helped him, but this is life.

    September 17, 2013 at 9:28 pm | Reply
  6. Phelix Unger

    The man would obviously prefer to be sitting in a different chair, that being said, redwood why is it America's duty to straighten out the mess in the middle east? Its not, were not talking about trying to curtail the behaviour of children here, these are people with guns and bombs. They don't tend to listen to well, the answer isn't to throw American lives into another countries follies. America just had a president who did that and what a mess he made of it. Enough young Americans have died for poltical points. Its time to stop fighting others wars.

    September 18, 2013 at 12:24 am | Reply
  7. samoosapur

    HERE is your gun we will see you on the battlefield we the American people will be having coffee while you and you ilk get killed.Leave our children alone.

    September 18, 2013 at 1:26 am | Reply
  8. alex valian

    I sincerely hope that Mr. Lapid swallows his words on Iran & Syria for the good of the region. That would be the sign that positive changes have happened in these countries which should delight a good majority of Mr. Lapid's compatriots as well.
    Secondly Mr. Netanyahu is a shrewd politician who probably wants to see Mr. Lapid fail in his political ambition, hence the Economy; the sticky point of their internal politics whereas their F.Policy is rigidly established and no F.Minister can fail!!!

    September 18, 2013 at 1:54 am | Reply
  9. AshPalloorane

    US is more pragmatic than patriotic if it is a US issue only. US has no objection Taliban has an office in Qatar and is ready to talk to Taliban even though this is the same group which harbored terrorists who attacked the US. At the same time, the Americans are totally against any reconciliation with anyone the Israelis don't like.

    September 18, 2013 at 3:06 am | Reply
  10. Abul Moniruzzaman

    The world has many things to worry about, lot of people are living below the poverty line, world economy is not doing good, the leaders have to give more attention in these areas, once the economy would grow other problems will be sidelines from people attention, I think the world leaders have to concentrate on economy more than any other issues. But we have observed they are spending more time on other issues than people economic situation.

    September 18, 2013 at 8:58 am | Reply
  11. George

    It is interesting how much I share Yair's thoughts. Generally you cannot trust the words of Arab dictators, only the deeds count. I would say "when we'll see it we'll believe it".

    September 18, 2013 at 9:42 am | Reply
  12. David

    The International Community has to demand that Israel get rid of it's weapons of mass destruction and stop it's warmongering. Everyone in America knows Israel are warmongers as we saw in the Syria Crisis, while the World was protesting for Peace... AIPAC, Anti-Defamation League, other Zionist affiliates and Israel were the only one's lobbying for war

    September 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Reply
    • David

      AIPAC, Anti-Defamation League, other Zionist affiliates and Israel were the only one's lobbying for war in America

      September 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  13. Rufus Reeta

    Peace is a necessary ingredient for a better quality of Life, not only in your Country but for the whole world. The best ingredient/quality of course is Love. For example if right now every Palestinian and Jew were to give each other natural love, we are going to have a very joyous Christmas(2013). Traumas caused by the conflict would start to heal. Folks would bring up their Children with love and peace not telling them that the community is a community of serpents.
    But looking at some individuals in this World, warmongering is their middle name, they might show their true madness if ordered to stop fighting now. They seem addicted to war and strife and entrap generations of the weak, gullible and those who fear death. Like serial killers (especially those who rape and kill Women), they feel empty after the sordidity induced adreneline rush, then they have to kill again. As People in this hour we live in we should learn to forgive each other and try to show/give each other love and respect if we ever entertain a happy peaceful co-existence.

    September 19, 2013 at 9:31 am | Reply
  14. Samuel

    Christiane should have had a stick in her hand, while interviewing Yair. He is also from the Middle East! I think it is ignorant from his side to publicly share such comments. Categorizing the whole region as he did, shows a lot about him, and clearly nothing good will be expected if Israel was unlucky to have him as president.

    September 21, 2013 at 6:26 am | Reply
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