Lapid dismisses ‘background noise’ after PM quoted predicting coalition collapse

Foreign Minister says in a Facebook post that ‘leaks, slanders, and attempts to make us quarrel’ will not shift government from its goals

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (R) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid attend a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on September12, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (R) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid attend a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on September12, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid dismissed reports in a lengthy Facebook post on Friday that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had indicated he doesn’t expect his current power-sharing government to last until August 2023, when the former is expected to become premier as part of a rotation agreement.

“We have a purpose. They will not move us from it. Not with leaks and slanders, not with secret recordings, and not with attempts to [make us] quarrel,” Lapid wrote.

“Background noises should be ignored and we should continue to strive forward. Never stop, and not take our eyes off the target,” he added.

Lapid said he spoke with Bennett, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, and other coalition leaders in recent days, telling all of them: “Our test is to know the difference between what is important and what is not important. They are trying and will continue to try to make us quarrel. If they succeed, it will mainly hurt the citizens of Israel,” he wrote.

Lapid said he and his coalition partners “formed this government for the sake of the citizens of the State of Israel. That’s the goal. We are focused only on that. We have security and political challenges, [and] we are [living through] two years of a pandemic and social division. We’re fixing all of this now. This is what motivates us. This is our mission. Everything else is just noise.”

The government’s progress on key issues, such as advancing the budget, “is a thousand times more important than some nonsense someone said in a moment of anger.”

On Thursday, Channel 12 news quoted Bennett as saying he estimates that the rotation agreement will not happen. “There is a considerable chance that the government will dissolve between the [passage of the] budget and the time of the change of power, for various reasons.”

Responding to the report, Bennett’s office appeared to confirm the comment, but indicated it was an assessment and stressed Bennett “will fully honor the rotation deal, as he has been saying from the get-go.

Alternate PM Yair Lapid and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked shake hands after the new coalition wins Knesset approval, June 13, 2021 (Haim Zach / GPO)

The report came amid increased tensions in the diverse ruling coalition, and a day after the same news outlet quoted Shaked, a close political ally of Bennett, questioning whether the Yamina party will honor the rotation that would see Lapid take over as prime minister in 2023.

The public infighting in the coalition — which is made up of right-wing, left-wing and centrist parties, as well as an Islamist one — must pass a 2021 budget by November 14, and Bennett and other ministers have warned against rocking the boat in the run-up to that vote.

If the much-delayed budget — it would be the first state budget to be approved in over three years — does not pass by the deadline, the coalition will automatically dissolve, triggering new elections.

The coalition, will need all of its lawmakers on board to approve the budget, which earlier Thursday the Knesset Finance Committee approved for its final plenum readings.

In recent weeks, coalition lawmakers have expressed increasing optimism regarding their chances of passing a budget, with no one in the narrow, 61-seat government interested in another election, despite the various ideological differences between them.

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