'This will end badly'

Lapid: New government not committed to democracy, dismantles foundations of society

Outgoing PM says weak Netanyahu and his ‘dangerous, extremist’ partners will damage army, economy, ties with US and Diaspora; vows to fight; incoming premier tells him to ‘go home’

Prime Minister Yair Lapid holds a press conference in Tel Aviv on December 22, 2022, at which he castigated the incoming coalition as dangerous to Israel. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid holds a press conference in Tel Aviv on December 22, 2022, at which he castigated the incoming coalition as dangerous to Israel. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

In a bleak and bitter address, outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday warned against the agenda put forward by his successor Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, accusing the Likud leader of being weak and beholden to extremist partners who will send the country down the road to ruin.

He said the next government was not committed to democracy or to the rule of law, and that it would devastate the Israeli education system, disproportionately fund the ultra-Orthodox community, tank the economy, politicize the army, cause an explosion in the West Bank, undermine Israel’s international standing, and damage ties with the US and the Diaspora.

Netanyahu, in response, said Lapid had ruined the country and should “go home.”

“The government being formed here is dangerous, extremist, irresponsible. This will end badly,” Lapid charged in televised remarks, saying he was speaking out of “profound concern for the future of Israeli society.”

“Netanyahu is weak, and [his partners] have created the most extreme government in the nation’s history,” Lapid said.

The speech came a day after Netanyahu formally declared he has formed a government, which he must swear into the Knesset by January 2. In the meantime, Netanyahu has been working to hammer out coalition deals with his ultra-Orthodox and far-right political partners, further details of which emerged on Thursday.

“Likud didn’t form the government. They did,” Lapid said of Netanyahu’s allies

Otzma Yehudit’s Itamar Ben Gvir, Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich and Shas’s Aryeh Deri “have imposed” the incoming coalition and its agenda on Netanyahu, Lapid said.

“They’ve established the most extreme government in the history of the state,” he said, adding that the new coalition “dismantles the foundations of Israeli society.”

Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Turning to specifics, Lapid said “the coalition agreements give an ultra-Orthodox student who doesn’t learn math and English thousands of shekels more than a student in the state education system.”

A yeshiva student who doesn’t serve in the military or work will get more money than an Israel Defense Forces soldier, according to Lapid.

“It’s a fire sale of Israel’s future,” he said.

He argued that the IDF “will be harmed,” noting the extensive authority in the West Bank that the far-right Religious Zionism is slated to receive.

“Ministers will appoint political generals who will sit on the General Staff. The defense minister will lose his authority over the Civil Administration. And in Judea and Samaria,” Lapid said, referring to the West Bank by its Biblical names, “it’s not clear who will be responsible for what. It’s a recipe for an explosion.”

Prime Minister Yair Lapid holds a press conference in Tel Aviv on December 22, 2022, at which he castigated the incoming coalition as dangerous to Israel. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Regarding incoming police minister Ben Gvir, Lapid said, “Show me a state in the world where the man responsible for the police is a violent criminal with 53 indictments and 8 convictions for serious offenses.”

As for education, he called Avi Maoz, head of the far-right Noam faction, “a dark racist, a man who, it was today publicized, has blacklists of LGBTQ people and activists in women’s organizations.” Yet Moaz, he said, “will be in charge of the education of our children.” Young parents will not be able to send their children to school without fear that they will be brainwashed, Lapid said.

Maoz, Noam’s sole lawmaker, is due to serve as a deputy minister in charge of “Jewish identity” in the Prime Minister’s Office, a post that will also give him control over some elements of school curricula.

Noam party leader Avi Maoz at a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, December 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Lapid also warned that Israel’s international standing will be damaged, including in the struggle against Iran, and the Jewish state will be unable to prevent sanctions from being leveled against it.

“This is the first government in the history of Israel that the United States does not regard as its closest ally,” Lapid said.

He said the incoming government will lead to the stalling of the high-tech engine that drives the Israeli economy. It will preside over an economy that “encourages people not to work, wastes billions of shekels on sectoral demands.” The cost of living will rise and rise, he warned.

Numerous tech executives have expressed concerns over the incoming government’s policies, warning they could deter investment.

Lapid said the coalition will also harm “the Jews of the world.” He added that Reform and Conservative Jews, a majority of the American Jewish community, “will not be able to regard Israel as their second homeland.”

Planned changes to the Law of Return “will put an end to the welcome immigration wave from Russia and Ukraine,” Lapid said in reference to calls among Netanyahu’s allies to scrap the so-called “grandchild clause” that grants citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent, even if they are not Jewish according to religious law.

MKs Itamar Ben Gvir (left) and Bezalel Smotrich speak in the Knesset on December 19, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Lapid said the new government “is not committed to democracy, is not committed to the rule of law, and now it is trying to silence the opposition. They tell us, ‘Accept the results of the election.’ When we won the elections [last year], they pursued the children of Knesset members on the way to school, sent thugs to attack our activists… churned out toxic lies and slurs to delegitimize the government.

“We won’t do any of that, but we will fight for our country from every place and every platform,” he vowed.

Lapid promised to battle from the opposition for the rule of law and the rights of women, the LGBT community, “IDF values,” education and “tolerant Jewish identity,” while calling on citizens to also take part in the struggle.

“Be on guard against a dangerous, extreme and irresponsible government, with a weak prime minister who has lost control even before being sworn in,” he said.

Shas leader Aryeh Deri seen at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Immediately after Lapid finished speaking, Netanyahu put out a statement bashing his adversary while painting a dystopian view of Israel under the outgoing government.

“Lapid, who has left a ruined country in economic and diplomatic collapse, with Iran galloping toward nuclear [capabilities] without any response, with murder and violence rampant, preaches to the next government with baseless inventions,” Netanyahu said in a statement from his Likud party.

“You lost the election,” he said to Lapid. “Go home.”

Netanyahu has so far inked coalition deals with Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit, while Noam announced Thursday that it would sign its agreement with Likud at the start of next week.

Netanyahu announced his success in forming a government just minutes before the midnight deadline Wednesday night, over a month after receiving the mandate from President Isaac Herzog.

Israel’s largest party and a right-wing powerhouse, Likud will be on the left flank of the prime minister-designate’s incoming coalition. Far-right Otzma Yehudit, Religious Zionism and Noam, as well as Netanyahu’s long-time ultra-Orthodox partners Shas and United Torah Judaism, round out the 64-seat majority coalition in Israel’s 120-member Knesset.

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