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'Israel is hurting. It's time for peace in this land'

Full text: The speech Lapid didn’t give at the government’s swearing-in ceremony

Alternate PM-designate opts not to deliver planned appeal for unity, instead says he’s ‘ashamed’ of soon-to-be opposition members for heckling Bennett during his speech

Yair Lapid addresses the Knesset, June 13, 2021. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset spokesperson)
Yair Lapid addresses the Knesset, June 13, 2021. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset spokesperson)

Alternate Prime Minister- and Foreign Minister-designate Yair Lapid waived his prepared speech at the swearing-in ceremony for the new government on Sunday, June 18, 2021, instead opting to reprimand right-wing lawmakers bound for the opposition for their nonstop heckling of Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett, who spoke before him.

“My mother is 86 years old and we don’t ask her to come to Jerusalem lightly, but we did it because I assumed that you would be able to get over yourselves and behave with statesmanship at this moment, and she would see a smooth transition of government,” Lapid said.

“When she was born, there was no State of Israel, Tel Aviv was a small town of 30,000 people, and we didn’t have a parliament. I wanted her to be proud of the democratic process in Israel. Instead, she, along with every citizen of Israel, is ashamed of you and remembers clearly why it is time to replace you,” he concluded before descending from the podium.

Following is the full text of the speech that Lapid did not deliver:

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Knesset, Prime Minister Designate, outgoing Prime Minister, President of the Supreme Court, honored guests.

In the Book of Judges, the phrase “the land was peaceful for 40 years” appears three times. I don’t know what will happen in 40 years, but let us all hope that in the future, we will be able to say of the government we are forming today: “the land was peaceful for four years.”

Because that is what we need. Israel is hurting. It is time for peace in this land.

In a democratic country, governments rise and fall. A generation goes and a generation comes. That is the natural order of things. This is a complicated coalition, maybe the most complicated in the country’s history, but the reason for its creation is actually simple: it is time.

Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party sends greetings during a Knesset session in Jerusalem, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schali22

It’s time. It is even a little late. This change is unavoidable because time does not stop. It’s time to change the operating system; it’s time for a change of generation.

But before we look to the future, we have another task — we need to find a way to forgive one another for the past. Hate is a prison, and forgiveness is the way out.

I look at the past few years in the life of this country: the protests, the anger, the terrible things that have been said in this hall. I don’t want to be held hostage by those years.

This is a complicated coalition, maybe the most complicated in the country’s history, but the reason for its creation is actually simple: It’s time.

In the past six years, I have sat in the opposition. Much of that time, I have been angry at the way the government treated us. The solution is not to treat them the same way. The solution is to behave differently.

I want to say to the opposition from this podium — our door will be open to you. We know that the public that voted for you has real needs. We won’t agree on everything, but we will always listen.

The past few years have seen us all turned from people into labels — right, left, secular, Haredi, Jewish, Arab. This government has been formed so that we stop being labels and revive our common identity, people, with all our complexities.

One of the Haredi Knesset Members sent me a message just before Shabbat which said, “The Kotzker Rebbe defined the saying, ‘Just as their faces are not the same, so their opinions are not the same’ as meaning, ‘Just as no person is angry that his friend has a different face, so no person should be angry at his friend’s different opinions.’” And then he added: “Let us hope for days of common good.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits in the Knesset, June 13, 2021. (Noam Moscowitz / Knesset Spokesperson’s Office)

If the Kotzker Rebbe had known his words would become a WhatsApp message full of good intentions between two Knesset Members, one Haredi and one secular, in a free and democratic Israel, then I think he would have been pleased. I believe he would have said to us, “It cannot be that you do not see how close you are.” We have an argument between us over politics and values, but we are not enemies. We live here together. Our fate is intertwined.

After all the insults and the warnings, the real divide in Israeli society isn’t between left and right. The real divide is between moderates and extremists. Those who want to build and those who want to destroy.

We will not let the extremists destroy the State of Israel. We will not let hate control us. Violent racists do not become patriots just because they wrap themselves in a flag. They will not define for us what it means to love Israel.

We are not enemies. Even the most strident opinions, even the most heated arguments, will not turn us into enemies. We will not let extremists destroy our ability to speak to one another and to work together for the good of the country.

Melanie Klein, one of the great psychoanalysts, explained that, corresponding to the desire to destroy, people also have a desire to repair. We have within us something strong that seeks to heal the world and ourselves. This government was formed out of that desire.

We will not let the extremists destroy the State of Israel. We will not let hate control us. Violent racists don’t become patriots just because they wrap themselves in a flag. They will not define for us what it means to love Israel.

We have a lot to fix.

We have to fix the discourse between us and we have to fix the sidewalks in Taybeh. We have to fix the internal medicine departments in our hospitals and the internal divides on religion and state. We have to fix our democracy and our relations with the Democratic Party in the United States. We have to fix the social gaps, and ensure that every child in Israel has a computer, and high-speed internet, and an equal opportunity to succeed.

It’s a lot of work. We have a lot of work to do. The only way to succeed is to work together. The cynics will mock — they always do — but cynics have never created anything.

If you want to build something, to create something, you need to trust other people. No home — a private one or a national one — was ever built by one person alone. The architect needs the engineer, the engineer needs the builder, the builder needs the brickmaker. This government was formed because we believe that our role is to build something better together. We believe that what connects us — what makes us one people and one nation and one country — is taking responsibility.

We are not only creating a government today, but also going back to the basic truth that our role is not only to look after ourselves, but also to look after one another. To care not only for people who think like us, but for all those who walk the Israeli journey with us.

The heads of the eight parties making up the prospective new government meet in the Knesset on June 13, 2021. Left to right: Ra’am head Mansour Abbas, Labor chief Merav Michaeli, Blue and White head Benny Gantz, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Yamina chief Naftali Bennett, New Hope head Gideon Sa’ar, Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman, and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz. (Ariel Zandberg)

This government was not formed for politicians. It was formed for teachers and engineers, farmers and police officers, small business owners, and Holocaust survivors, and school children.

It is being formed for Meital, the young woman with a nose piercing who stopped me in the street and said, “I didn’t vote for you, but you owe me.” And she’s right. I do owe her. Because she is the legal owner of the future we are being entrusted to build.

People ask us, what do you have in common? What is there in common between Merav Michaeli and Avigdor Liberman? What is there in common between Ayelet Shaked and Benny Gantz and Mansour Abbas? Between Gideon Sa’ar and Nitzan Horowitz? What is there in common between Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett?

This government wasn’t formed for politicians. It was formed for teachers and engineers, farmers and police officers, small business owners and Holocaust survivors and school children.

The answer is — this country. That is the thing that unites us. That’s our shared love. None of us thinks that we love the country more than the other. None of us has ownership over patriotism or love of the country.

What we have in common is the understanding that you cannot claim to love Israel if you hate half of the Israelis.

There is nothing easier than finding common ground between us, if you know where to look. The care for small businesses in the periphery.

The importance we place on the education of our children and the healthcare of our parents.

The understanding that the IDF needs to be strong and uphold clear moral values.
The recognition that this country is governed by the rule of law and that we need to show zero tolerance to corruption, especially in the public sector.

The understanding that it is the duty of the Jewish state to ensure civic equality for every citizen.

There is one more thing that we have in common; when something is broken we don’t look for someone to blame, but for a way to fix it. This government has come to fix what is broken. That is its role, its mission. That is the major change it brings with it.

Prime minister-designate Naftali Bennett addresses the Knesset, June 13, 2021 (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)

Before I finish, I want to thank my incredible team that created and built this government: Hillel Kobrinsky, our commander, Dani Vesely, Dana Pitelis Kaduri, Naama Shultz, Gili Haushner, Yael Bar, Roei Konkol, Yair Zivan, Neta Attias, Tami Nassee, Ethel Hooven, Meir Cohen, Rami Yehudicha, Mark Mellman, Oded Gazit, and Guy Busy. Without you, it wouldn’t have happened.

Thank you to all the heads of the parties in the new coalition who came on board and worked and pushed, first and foremost my friend and partner, Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett. I believe in you. You will do great things for Israel.

Thank you to each of the Knesset members who brought us here today. Each of you had to show commitment and compromise. You put the country and your values before your personal interest.

I thank all the amazing people who went to stand on bridges and at junctions, they are the ones who brought us to this moment. And thank you to our Knesset members for your determination and wisdom and support.

And a final thank you to my support group, Lihi Lapid, Shulamit Lapid, my sister Merav Roth, Ilil, Yoav, Lior, and Yaeli, and to my father, who did a good job supervising from above.

Thank you.

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