As AJC Global Forum 2023 opened in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Yair Lapid, Leader of the Opposition in Israel, warned that democracy should not be taken for granted. During a conversation with AJC CEO Ted Deutch in front of over 1,500 attendees from over 60 countries, Lapid explained why Iran continues to pose a threat not only to the region, but the world as a whole. 

Additionally, Lapid shed light on the reasons behind the weekly protests organized by hundreds of thousands of Israelis in response to Israel’s proposed judicial reforms as well as his views on relations between Israel and Diaspora Jews.

Here are three takeaways from that conversation.   

1) Israel equals democracy.

Safeguarding democracy is not only key to maintaining Israel and America’s shared values of freedom and rule of law, it’s also the key to preserving the existence of Israel, Lapid said.

“If we will not be a democracy, we will not be,” Lapid said. “It's existential. Israel was founded as a democracy. This is the source of our power. It amazes me there are so many people who do not understand the fact that there is a reason why the only democracy in the Middle East is also the most successful country in the region.”

That’s why so many Israeli citizens have been voicing their opinions about the contentious judicial reforms for the past 23 weeks, he said.  

“As long as we are in a democracy, governments come and go, the State of Israel stays,” he said.

“You come here and you see the division, and you see the struggle, but you find yourself really proud when you see those hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are not giving up,” he added. “I'm not going to give up on Israel as a beacon for freedom in this region, because this is why we are out there.”

2) Israel needs the diaspora.

“You have a voice in this,” Lapid said to the Jewish Diaspora while discussing the debate over Israel’s proposed judicial reform. “Israel cannot come to you for decades and tell you we are family and then tell you you can’t speak your mind when something is wrong. We need to hear this voice. This is what happens within a family if there are questions. Families ask questions.”

“You should tell us what you think. And we want to hear what you have to say,” Lapid said. “I mean, there are some parts of the Israeli society who find some twisted joy in, surrounding themselves with emotional and intellectual walls and not listening to anyone but people who feel the same or think the same. I am not doing this.” 

 3) Iran is an ongoing concern.

Lapid reiterated the sentiments he expressed last year about how the biggest struggle in the world is a battle between good and evil and  terror versus freedom. That’s why the violence carried out by Russia against Ukraine and the terror inflicted by Iran can’t be separated, said Lapid. 

Iran was the first and most influential country to move and be on the side of Russia, being the biggest supplier of drones and building a factory together,” Lapid said. “What they’re doing is a combination of evils. And another proof if anyone needed another proof is whatever is wrong in this world, Iran is going to be involved.”

Lapid said that addressing the Iranian threat won’t be that easy. World powers need to make it a priority and send a clearer message that a nuclear Iran will not be accepted or tolerated, he posited.

Watch the full conversation below:

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