Lapid panned for vacationing as protests against government legal overhaul begin

Opposition head defends weekend in Paris, saying he and his wife endured ‘craziest year and a half of our lives’ when he was FM and PM, but he’ll be back Sunday to join fight

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid speaks during a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, January 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid speaks during a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, January 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid flew to Paris on Thursday for a long weekend with his wife, drawing criticism from some activists against the new government who argued that he should be leading protests against the coalition’s sweeping judicial reforms that were announced a day earlier.

“At a time when a coup d’état is taking place in Israel and all the foundations of democracy are being gunned down by [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s destructive government, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid chooses to fly to Paris for a vacation. Instead of declaring a state of emergency in order to thwart anti-democratic moves, Lapid… [is] legitimiz[ing] these anti-democratic moves,” the Kumi Israel grassroots movement tweeted.

“At this hour, there is no leadership for a huge community in Israel,” the group claimed.

Lapid published a Facebook post several hours later in which he defended the vacation, saying it came after the “craziest year and a half of our lives” during which he was foreign minister and prime minister.

“We had no big plans: Maybe see an exhibit, have a romantic dinner, walk around a bunch. But then it turned out that a lot of people had a lot of things to say about this. They decided that if I am not here for two and a half days, it means that I am not committed to the struggle for Israeli democracy. I hate to be defensive and I hate to complain, but there is a limit [to such nonsense],” he wrote.

Lapid claimed in the post to have “lost millions of shekels” by entering politics. A financial disclosure released by the Yesh Atid chairman in 2015 estimated his fortune at NIS 10.4 million ($2.93 million), according to The Marker business daily. A Forbes report from around the same period calculated that Lapid’s assets amounted to NIS 22 million ($6.2 million).

“On Sunday I’ll return to continue the struggle with all of my might until we bring down this terrible government. There is only one condition that must be met for this to succeed: We must stop harassing each other, stop performing purity tests on each other, and instead fight together against the real risk: a benighted government with a weak prime minister that threatens to destroy life together in Israel,” Lapid added.

On Thursday, lawmakers from Lapid’s party joined hundreds of people outside the High Court of Justice to protest against the overhaul to the legal system proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin on Wednesday.

The changes set out by Levin at a press conference in the Knesset would severely limit the authority of the High Court of Justice, give the government control over the judicial selection committee, and significantly limit the authority of government legal advisers.

Critics warn the planned moves will remove the judiciary’s role as a check on the power of the ruling majority. Proponents argue that court rulings overturning legislation or government decisions subvert the will of Israeli voters.

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