Lapid Lashes Out from the Sidelines

YERUSHALAYIM -
MK Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

In a shocking performance on Tuesday evening, Yair Lapid again lashed out at the nascent unity government, and especially at his former partner Benny Gantz, accusing him of deceiving the country and paving the way for the demise of democracy.

Lapid, who, as Blue and White’s No. 2, had looked forward to being the next foreign minister, refused to join with Gantz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ and now finds himself relegated to the opposition. Instead of attaining a senior ministry, he and Moshe Yaalon head Yesh Atid-Telem, a small and powerless fragment of the center-left bloc.

But while some will still listen to him, Lapid will not be silent: “I apologize to everyone who I convinced over the past year to vote for Benny Gantz and Blue and White. I didn’t believe your votes would be stolen,” he said in a live press conference.

“There has not been such deceit since the establishment of the state. Instead of Israel before all else, [it’s] the seat before all else,” Lapid charged, referring to the rotating premiership and the ministries Blue and White will receive.

“No promise you were given will be honored. Not one,” he said. “In this government, Miri Regev will choose the police chief. Netanyahu will choose the state prosecutor and the judges who will preside over his trial.

“All the institutions intended to defend democracy have been handed over to a man accused of criminality.”

And he predicted that annexation of parts of Yehudah and Shomron will destroy the peace agreement with Jordan and do irreversible damage to Israel’s relationship with Democrats in the U.S. and the Jewish community there.

Gantz on Tuesday night defended his decision to join with PM Netanyahu, reversing his oft-repeated promise not to do so. He said that as Israel faced “the greatest crisis to health, economy and society in recent decades…some wanted to continue to move toward more and more elections and perhaps score political points… I and my colleagues could not stand by.”

“We chose to safeguard democracy and fight coronavirus and its consequences. We had to pull up our sleeves, leave our comfort zone of statements,” he said.

“We thought it was better to win against coronavirus than to win on social media… We chose a national cause over a party cause.”

In response to scathing criticism of the size of the emerging government, the largest in Israeli history, Gantz acknowledged a legitimate grievance: “I would have preferred a slimmer government… and at least as far as I’m concerned I will do my best to minimize the number of positions in my bloc.” This, despite the fact that his demand for parity with the right-wing bloc in apportionment of ministries was the cause of expanding the cabinet to 34.

Netanyahu’s Likud brushed off Lapid’s speech and cast him as an irrelevancy: “Instead of showing responsibility and entering a national emergency government working to save the lives and livelihoods of Israeli citizens, Yair Lapid preferred to remain in the opposition, to try and drag Israel into a fourth election, and then to preach from the sidelines. His time has passed.”

Meanwhile, Israeli media noted that the calendar gives Netanyahu an extra month as prime minister.

Several media outlets have noted that this week and the next’s days of commemoration and Independence Day, as well as several legislative measures required by the coalition agreement, may cause the new government to only be sworn in in early May.

This means Netanyahu will be serving as prime minister until November, not October, 2021 (according to the 18-month period agreed upon), for those of you marking your calendars.