(JTA) — It is safer to be a Jew in New York than in Israel, Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid told an audience in New York.
“Israel was founded as a refuge for the Jewish people, but today it isn’t a safe place. It is safer to be Jew in New York,” Lapid told PBS host Charlie Rose during an interview Tuesday before an audience at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.
Lapid’s remarks on the relative safety of living in New York compared to Israel comes after he wrote late last month on his Facebook page that he has lost his patience for Israelis who move to Berlin.
Asked by Rose why Israel does not just return eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinians as part of a peace agreement, Lapid answered, “I want to live in a country that is not just a place but also an idea, and Jerusalem is the heart of the idea. There may be practical considerations, but a country cannot exist without an ethos, and Jerusalem is an ethos.”
“I like Tel Aviv; I live in Tel Aviv, but our right of return is Jerusalem. We did not return after 2,000 years for Tel Aviv but for Jerusalem.”
Lapid also told Rose that “Jerusalem will not be divided. It will continue to be Israel’s capital.” He also said he opposes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s requirement that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a condition for a peace deal. Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is part of the government coalition led by Netanyahu’s Likud.
“I don’t feel we need a declaration from the Palestinians that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” Lapid said. “My father didn’t come to Haifa from the Budapest ghetto in order to get recognition from Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas].”