Lapid castigated Netanyahu for "wasting" the last four years, saying that the prime minister had taken "the central problem facing the country, and [thrown] it in the laps of our children." And he painted a dismal, self-defeating picture of Israel's future if the problem was left to fester.
"Our children ... will have 6 million, 7 million Palestinians [to deal with] -- poorer, angrier, more frustrated and desperate; our children will have to deal with the next intifada; they are the ones who will have to deal with the return of terror attacks," he said. "Our children will be the ones that will have to deal with an economic crisis and growing international isolation; and our children will ultimately be the ones who return to those very same negotiations that we could be conducting right now, only on much worse terms."
Lapid rejected the prevailing notion, clung to by Netanyahu, that there was "no partner" on the Palestinian side. "These are the Palestinians, there are no others," Lapid said. "They're here and they aren't going anywhere, and the only thing that this ‘no partner' policy has done is undermine Israel's international standing and strengthened Hamas."
On Iran, Lapid played down the ability of a military strike to solve the nuclear issue, noting that while the option should remain on the table as a last resort, Israel's security chiefs were all in agreement that it would only delay the Iranian program. The goal, he said, should be the fall of the Iranian regime, through "choking sanctions." The mistake, he said, was in thinking that Israel "had to solve the problem for the world, instead of animating the world to solve the problem for us."
Whether Lapid translates the above beliefs into actual policy change remains to be seen; his first test will arrive in a few days, when the coalition negotiations begin in earnest. But there is little doubt that Lapid holds a starkly different worldview than Netanyahu -- less suspicious, more optimistic, and above all, internationalist.
Near the end of his speech, Lapid quoted John F. Kennedy: "Let us never negotiate out of fear but let us never fear to negotiate."
"I stand here, in Ariel," Lapid concluded, echoing a certain other U.S. president, "to say to the citizens of Israel: We need to stop letting fear dictate our lives, and start the journey toward hope."