Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in an interview published Sunday that he is concerned opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu may not accept the results of the November 1 national election.
“I’m afraid of that, yes,” the premier told the Ynet news site. “They’ve already started bringing things to the Elections Committee, and it could be that they’re planning a move whereby if Netanyahu doesn’t win — and I believe he won’t — he’ll try to question the legitimacy of the elections.”
Lapid said that the best option for the nation would be a unity government between his Yesh Atid party and the Likud party — but not if the latter faction continued to be led by Netanyahu while he is on trial for corruption charges.
“The best is a unity government with the Likud party, without Netanyahu. Netanyahu cannot be sat with in government because he is facing three indictments,” Lapid said.
“This is about our values. This is a person who has serious criminal indictments. First he should finish his trial,” he said. “People charged with serious criminal offenses should not be in senior positions in the State of Israel.”
Likud dismissed Lapid’s allegation that Netanyahu may not accept the election results, saying the party “is a symbol and an example for democracy that always respects the will of the voter.”
In his interview with Ynet, Lapid also said he wasn’t concerned about the possibility that Defense Minister Benny Gantz will decide to join Netanyahu in government. Gantz is a former coalition partner of both Lapid and Netanyahu.
Gantz has tried to position himself as a third possibility for prime minister should Netanyahu and Lapid be unable to assemble a coalition.
Most polls give neither Lapid’s center-left bloc or Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc a majority. Gantz’s National Unity party is currently polling at around 11 seats.
When asked whether he would rely on outside support for a potential coalition from the Arab-majority Hadash-Ta’al party, Lapid said he wouldn’t discuss “hypotheticals.”
However, he dismissed that idea that the Ayman Odeh-led faction could be a coalition partner.
“We have said it a thousand times,” he said. “They don’t want to a part of the government and more importantly, I don’t want them to be.”
Lapid did say he was worried about potentially low levels of Arab turnout in the elections.
“Worried is the word… This is 20% of the citizens of the State of Israel, and they have real problems that have been neglected, like a million other things that have been neglected here, including personal security,” he said, referring to the rising crime rate afflicting the Arab community.
“Israeli society, and this is one of the problems we face, has a deep sense of mistrust within it. It has become a part of our lives — mistrust between parts of Israeli society, between Jews and Arabs, between religious and secular, and this is what I am fighting against,” Lapid said.
Lapid added that he was concerned about the rise of far-right Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir.
“Voting for Ben Gvir is voting against the IDF, and in favor of the people who assault the 202nd Brigade and its fighters,” Lapid said.
Last week settlers, including at least one off-duty soldier, attacked Israeli troops who were attempting to break up a violent demonstration they were holding near Nablus amid high tensions in the West Bank. Four soldiers, including the commanding officer of the 202nd Paratrooper Battalion, were hit with pepper spray from the settlers during the fighting.
In the wake of the assault, Lapid described the attackers as “emissaries of Ben Gvir,” whose Religious Zionism party is expected to win 13-14 seats in the November 1 election.
“In what world is [Ben Gvir] the solution? The problem he points to is a real problem — we do need to increase personal security, flood the streets with police, soldiers and security personnel,” Lapid said Sunday.
“But in what world is a person who did not serve in the army, who was convicted of supporting terrorism, who does not know what he is doing, the solution to this problem?” Lapid asked. “He is a dangerous man who runs militias that attack IDF officers and soldiers, and claims that he is the solution. He is not the solution, he is dangerous.”
Lapid also addressed the rising cost of living, saying that his government was implementing policies to try to tackle the issue.
“There is no magic solution to the cost of living, and whoever says he has a magic solution is a liar,” Lapid said, confirming that he was referring to Netanyahu’s campaign pledges on the issue.