Blue and White party No. 2 Yair Lapid drew criticism from female lawmakers across the political spectrum on Sunday after a quip that went flat when he suggested that the few women candidates in his party lacked discipline.
Speaking at an electoral rally in Ness Ziona, south of Tel Aviv, the head of the Yesh Atid faction, which is part of Blue and White, was asked why there were so few women on the party’s Knesset list. He responded that it was regrettable, but that the situation came about because the list had been hastily assembled in last-minute negotiations with Benny Gantz, the party’s leader who is seen as a serious challenger to incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to the agreement that merged Gantz’s Israel Resilience party and Lapid’s Yesh Atid into Blue and White, if the party takes power, Lapid will take over as prime minister from Gantz after two and a half years.
Nine of the Blue and White’s top 30 candidates and 13 of the top 40 are women. With just over a month to go to elections, the party is polling around the mid-30s for number of Knesset seats.
After offering his answer, Lapid introduced the party’s second-highest female candidate on the list, Orna Barbivai, a retired army major-general who is in tenth place, to stand up and acknowledge the crowd. But she declined and Lapid responded with a smile and said: “We have a small number of women candidates and even they lack discipline,”
The criticism from female lawmakers across the political board was swift and scathing.
“Two women in the top ten of the party list and they won’t be told [what to do], so what good are they?” asked Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party.
“Are you serious? You are a candidate for prime minister, such utterances are not funny,” said Merav Ben-Ari of center-right Kulanu headed by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Likud minister Gila Gamliel said Lapid was a “Condescending, weak, pathetic, chauvinist.”
Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich of Labor sided with Barbivai, whom she lauded for staying in her seat, and described her as “a strong woman.”
Lapid later responded with an apology on Twitter to all who were offended, saying that “it was a poor joke.”