Lapid says government not functioning, still ‘in shock’ from Hamas assault

Opposition leader presents 8-point plan to improve services for those impacted by war; cabinet minister Gantz stresses Israel making its own decisions though grateful for US support

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid head MK Yair Lapid speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv on October 26, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Opposition leader and Yesh Atid head MK Yair Lapid speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv on October 26, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid attacked the government Thursday for what he sais was inadequate delivery of services to citizens, 20 days after Israel was shocked into war with Hamas when the terror group launched a devastating attack.

“It’s possible to understand the shock and paralysis of the government” immediately after Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, he said, but “it’s hard to understand how the government hasn’t emerged from the shock” nearly three weeks into the ensuing war.

Led by Hamas and carried out with other terror groups, the assault saw some 2,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air, and sea, killing some 1,400 people and seizing at least 228 hostages of all ages, under the cover of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. Most of those who were slaughtered by the gunmen were civilians — men, women and children.

Terror groups in the Strip have continued to barrage Israel with rockets in the weeks since the onslaught, alongside sporadic rocket fire from Lebanon. The military says over 200,000 Israelis have been displaced by the war.

“The government isn’t present” for those who have been evacuated from their homes, those who were abducted by Hamas, survivors, those with family members called up as army reservists, and schoolchildren whose education schedule has been disrupted,” Lapid accused.

“It’s impossible to go on this way,” he said.

Evacuees from Kibbutz Nir Oz in the lobby of a hotel in Eilat on October 17, 2023. (Aris MESSINIS / AFP)

Lapid presented eight recommendations for the government, which he said were formed in consultation with experts and former government officials using experience gained in previous conflicts and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He listed communicating with the public more frequently; improving care of evacuated citizens, in part by moving delivery of services to local authorities, aided by the government; aiding small and medium-sized businesses and independent contractors called up to reserve duty; expanding financial protections for reservists and frontline residents; increasing educational services, especially for evacuated children; broadening mental health services; increasing personal protection, in part by putting armed community security organizations in each Israeli town; and closing unneeded government ministries and diverting coalition funds to the war effort.

The opposition leader identified eight superfluous government ministries, saying, “They are ministries that don’t need to exist, especially not in wartime.” He suggested they be closed and their budgets diverted to local authorities and the war effort.

Lapid said his party’s economic recommendations were handed to the Finance Ministry last week, and some had been integrated into the government’s economic recovery plan.

At his own press briefing Thursday, war cabinet member Minister Benny Gantz said that Israel will ultimately make its own decision relating to war plans, in light of several reports that it has bowed to American pressure to delay a ground invasion of Gaza.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and return the hostages. Alongside intensive strikes on Gaza, it has called up over 300,000 army reservists ahead of the expected ground operation.

“We are making decisions only based on our own interests,” Gantz told reporters in Tel Aviv, while also saying Israel appreciates the support it’s received from its ally the United States.

“Only we will defend ourselves and every Jew,” he added, saying that “the danger of elimination” faces not Israel but its enemies.

People leave their vehicles to take cover during a Palestinian rocket attack from the Gaza Strip along a main road in Tel Aviv on October 24, 2023. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

“Hard times are expected for us,” Gantz said, of the war ahead, but that the war cabinet is functioning well.

“We, the leadership, are aware of the difficulties” faced by civilians in light of Hamas’s attack and the war it prompted, he said, and promised the government will ensure security for residents so they can rebuild their communities in the Gaza border area.

Gantz also said the government is working to return hostages, using every avenue possible.

Regarding his National Unity party’s decision to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government two weeks ago, Gantz said: “I say to you with full confidence that this was the right step for Israel and this step has already proved itself” in security decisions and in generating a message of internal unity, important both for domestic and enemy audiences.

Lapid has declined to join the emergency government.

“I am a soldier. I wasn’t playing politics when I joined the emergency government. Just like I knew when to enter, I will also know when to exit,” former IDF chief of staff Gantz said, adding, “I’m here until after the war.”

Israel says its war against Hamas is aimed at destroying the Iran-backed terror group’s infrastructure and has vowed to dismantle the organization after the massacres, while minimizing harm to Gaza’s civilians.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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