Lapid: Likud government left behind ‘unbelievable’ destruction and neglect

Gantz says coalition is working to come to agreement on Palestinian family reunification law, and he ‘expects the opposition leader not to play games’ with Israel’s security

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Head of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 21, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Head of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 21, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Yesh Atid leader and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Monday that the new government encountered a state of “unbelievable destruction” when it took over governmental ministries and offices from the previous coalition.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Lapid said at the opening of a Yesh Atid faction meeting in the Knesset. “The destruction and the neglect that we found in the offices are unbelievable. We’re not starting to work from zero, rather from less than zero. Instead of taking care of the country, the previous government cared only about itself.”

He said the current economy “is a total disaster” and foreign policy “was abandoned for the sake of personal interests.” State entities including the police and the health infrastructure “need urgent resuscitation,” Lapid added.

“I’m calling on the public to be patient,” he said. “We will rebuild better state systems, but it won’t happen in a day and it won’t happen in a month. It’s a process, a process that will be conducted transparently, patiently, in a balanced manner and without political considerations.”

Lapid said he was open to working with the opposition, despite its members’ acerbic rhetoric against the new government.

“The job of the opposition is to oppose us. I accept that,” he said. “Its job is to try and bring down the government — I accept that too. But we also have a shared goal: that the State of Israel succeed, prosper, and be safe and strong.”

Gideon Sa’ar, head of the New Hope party, speaks at a conference in Jerusalem on March 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar used his opening statement at the New Hope faction meeting to address the controversy surrounding a bill that would extend the ban on Palestinian family reunification. While Likud lawmakers in principle support renewing the legislation that bars granting citizenship to Palestinians who marry Israelis, many have indicated they will vote against it just to undermine the new government and attempt to divide it.

“Likud is acting in a clear manner against its own principles,” Sa’ar said. “This is political schizophrenia. The opposition — apparently to try to embarrass the coalition, although I believe they’re only embarrassing themselves — is prepared to harm the good of the country as it itself defines it.”

At the opening of the Blue and White faction meeting, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that the new government was one of compromise, and that he, too, would have to compromise on some issues to allow it to function.

“The one thing there will be no compromise on is the security of Israel,” he said.

“We must find a solution to the reunification law,” Gantz added, saying that there could be “improvements” in the legislation, and that he “expects the opposition leader not to play games.”

Gantz said the government would continue to work to get vaccines to the Palestinians after Ramallah rejected a transfer of doses over the weekend, citing their looming expiration date.

“We are committed to the health of our neighbors, and I’m sure a solution will be found to the satisfaction of both sides,” said Gantz.

Head of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz leads a faction meeting in the Knesset on June 21, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

The defense minister also issued a fresh threat to Hamas in Gaza, a month after a ceasefire came into effect, ending 11 days of fighting.

“There’s no going back to the way things were,” he said. “If Hamas has not yet understood, we will make sure they understand. Without [the return of] our boys and without regional stability, Gaza will not be rehabilitated economically,” he said, referring to the two civilians and the two soldiers’ remains being held in Gaza.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz noted at his Meretz faction meeting that it had been a week since the new government was sworn in, “and the sun rises, the sun sets, life goes on.”

Horowitz echoed Lapid’s comments about the “tremendous neglect” found in the ministries vacated by the previous government.

“In the past year or two, the government was operating at a very low level,” Horovitz said, “and important and big issues were just not dealt with for a very long time.”

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli told her Labor faction meeting that “change is in the air” in the new coalition.

She added that the coalition was working on resolving its differences of opinion on the reunification law, and said “it would be appropriate if we can make changes to it and come to an agreement on it.”

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