Lapid Claims Otzma Yehudit Changed His Mind

Itamar Ben Gvir (left) and Michael Ben Ari, leaders of the Otzma Yehudit party. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yair Lapid has claimed that the right-wing alliance with Otzma Yehudit changed his mind about joining with Benny Gantz in the election campaign.

Asked in an interview with Channel 12 what led him to finally concede the No. 1 spot on the ticket to Gantz, Lapid said:

“I know when it happened. We sat and endlessly discussed matters, and suddenly entering the mix was that Kahanists were entering the Knesset and that Netanyahu promised [Jewish Home MK Betzalel] Smotrich to be our children’s next education minister,” Lapid said.

“And suddenly, everything else moved aside,” he went on. “I suddenly said, we must prevent this. My biggest argument against Netanyahu in the last two years has been that he puts himself before the country. And I suddenly told myself, aren’t you doing the same thing? Putting yourself before the country? Put the country before yourself, that’s why you went into politics.”

Meanwhile, the Otzma Yehudit party has decided to retaliate for the wave of attacks on it. The party filed an 100,000 shekel lawsuit against the religious-Zionist Rabbi Benny Lau on charges of slander.

“A vote for Jewish Home [with the Otzma Yehudit faction] is a vote for the racism of Kahane,” Rabbi Lau said, and compared the party’s platform to the Nazi Nuremberg laws because of its anti-Arab agenda.

In a letter they sent to Rabbi Lau on Sunday morning, former MK Michael Ben-Ari and lawyer Itamar Ben-Gvir demanded an apology.

“Your words were clear slander and gravely insulting,” Ben-Gvir wrote. “You crossed a red line by comparing Jews to Nazis, Jews who are loyal to the State of Israel, the Land of Israel and the people of Israel.”

“He knows we are not in favor of killing Arabs,” Ben-Gvir said. “He knows our platform encourages the emigration of those who are not loyal to the State of Israel. Those who are loyal, we have no problem with – ‘Ahalan wasahalan’ [an Arabic phrase meaning ‘you are welcome’]. We will take off our gloves before Rabbi Lau, who accepts anarchists and Leftist extremists, and always scolds others to listen to differing views. But when it comes to Otzma, he speaks with a new peak of primitiveness and hatred.”