Lapid: If October 7 had happened on my watch, I would have resigned that same day

Opposition leader asserts neither the security establishment nor the public has a ‘drop of trust’ in the PM, says he must be replaced, even with the war on Hamas still underway

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid party faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on December 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid party faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on December 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a sharp jab at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid said Tuesday that if he were in the premier’s seat, he would have resigned on October 7.

“I don’t trust Netanyahu. He is a man who cannot be trusted to conduct a war,” Lapid, who served as prime minister from July to December 2022, told Army Radio.

Referring to the Hamas terror group’s devastating October 7 attack, he said, “If this had happened on my watch, I would have resigned that same day.”

Referring to the previous government he headed along with former prime minister Naftali Bennett, Lapid said, “In our time, Hamas knew not to attack.”

He said that due to political turmoil over the Netanyahu government’s domestic policies before the war — specifically, its highly contentious efforts to overhaul the country’s judiciary — Hamas “recognized weakness in the country’s leadership, the worst in the country’s history, and attacked.”

Israel launched its ongoing military campaign in response to a devastating October 7 cross-border attack by Hamas that killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Thousands of terrorists who burst through the border with Gaza into southern Israel also abducted at least 240 people who were taken as hostages into the coastal enclave. Israel has set the goals of eliminating Hamas from power in Gaza and releasing the hostages.

Netanyahu must be replaced even as the war is still being waged, Lapid argued. He pointed to the example of Winston Churchill taking over from Neville Chamberlain in Britain in the early days of World War II.

“Netanyahu has become the Israeli Chamberlain,” he said. “We need our Churchill.”

“Changing prime minister in the middle of war is not good, but the fact that he is in office is worse,” Lapid said.

(From left) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz hold a joint press conference at the Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv, on November 11, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

He further claimed that neither the security establishment nor the public has even “a drop of trust” in the prime minister.

Lapid said that due to his lack of faith in Netanyahu, he also doesn’t trust the war cabinet, a three-member forum of Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Minister Benny Gantz that was formed to handle the war. Minister Gadi Eisenkot and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer serve as observers, and Shas party leader Aryeh Deri often sits in as well.

Gantz and Eisenkot are of the centrist National Unity party, which entered into an emergency government with Netanyahu after the war broke out. Both are former IDF chiefs of staff.

“You can’t rely on [Netanyahu] to manage a war,” Lapid said and pointed to media reports that Netanyahu was preventing Gallant from meeting alone with the heads of the Mossad spy agency and the Shin Bet security service. Mossad chief David Barnea has been directly involved in negotiations for the release of hostages.

Lapid defended not joining the emergency government and said that even in wartime it is important for there to be an opposition in the Knesset. He also noted he had objected from the start to the war cabinet having no clear definition of its authority or function, saying it was therefore destined to become nothing more than an advisory body.

Lapid also criticized Netanyahu for repeatedly declaring his opposition to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ruling a postwar Gaza, saying the prime minister was “campaigning against himself” on the issue. “There is nobody in any establishment, not only in Israel, who thinks or believes it is possible that Abu Mazen [Abbas] should be given control of Gaza,” said Lapid. “Netanyahu is campaigning against himself, and nobody knows why.”

The US has repeatedly said it ultimately seeks a future Gaza run by a reformed PA as part of a two-state solution. Netanyahu opposes Palestinian statehood. Lapid declared his own opposition to Abbas ruling Gaza two weeks ago.

There has been some criticism from within the government on how the war is being managed, with Economy Minister Nir Barkat claiming that troops on the ground are not getting the air cover they need due to concerns over civilian casualties in Gaza. His remarks drew a rebuke from Netanyahu and Gantz.

IDF forces operate in the Gaza Strip, in a handout photo released on December 26, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

In a primetime address Sunday, President Isaac Herzog urged politicians to avoid the bickering and divisiveness that characterized much political debate before October 7, telling them to “show responsibility, restrain yourselves and wait a little longer with the political campaigns and messages.”

“The enemy is waiting to see chasms among us, for us to start fighting with one another. It sees the confrontations, the ego battles, and the political headbutting,” Herzog said. “It celebrates every time disagreement drives us apart.”

“We must not return to the discourse of October 6, of us and them,” he added. “We must not return to toxic discourse online. Anyone who returns us to the discourse of October 6 harms the war effort and citizens’ security.”

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