Lapid says he fears for country after receiving security briefing from Netanyahu

Opposition head slams ‘incompetent government,’ demands PM rein in far-right ministers, officially reinstate Gallant as defense minister; Likud: Lapid engaging in ‘petty politics’

Yair Lapid, left, Avi Gil, center, and Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting at military HQ in Tel Aviv on April 9, 2023. (Government handout)
Yair Lapid, left, Avi Gil, center, and Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting at military HQ in Tel Aviv on April 9, 2023. (Government handout)

Opposition head Yair Lapid said Sunday that he had left a security briefing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more worried than when he went in, and that he demanded the premier rein in far-right ministers, as Israel contends with security threats on multiple fronts.

“I arrived at the briefing with Netanyahu worried, and I left even more worried,” Lapid said in a televised address and a statement posted online.

“I told Netanyahu that the State of Israel needs a full-time security minister. He needs to announce that he has taken the firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant off the table, to admit that he cannot rely on his cabinet and to create a small, stable security forum to deal with the situation,” Lapid said.

Netanyahu fired Gallant last month, after the latter called for a halt to the government’s judicial overhaul because of the contentious legislation’s security fallout. Gallant has not been formally fired and remains in his position.

Lapid also said he told Netanyahu to strip National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir of any responsibility for the Temple Mount flashpoint holy site, which has seen inflammatory clashes between police and Muslim worshipers and rioters during Ramadan and Passover in recent days.

“We can’t have a TikTok clown who has lost the trust of the police and forces in the field managing things,” he said. Lapid often refers to Ben Gvir as a “TikTok clown,” thanks to the far-right minister’s posting on the social media platform.

Lapid blamed the instability and chaos from within Netanyahu’s cabinet for the country’s security problems.

“What our enemies see in front of them, in all arenas, is an incompetent government. A cabinet no one trusts. A defense minister [in limbo] who was fired for telling the truth. A national security minister who leaks recordings of the police chief to the media. A finance minister who says he wants to wipe out villages,” Lapid said.

He called on Netanyahu to pull Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich from the Defense Ministry, where Smotrich is also a minister.

Israeli forces outside Jerusalem’s Old City during clashes with Palestinians inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque on April 5, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

“Netanyahu needs to cancel the unreasonable situation in which there are two ministers in the Defense Ministry. It cannot be that the messianic faction of the most extreme settlers bought a handle in the Defense Ministry during such a tense period,” Lapid said, warning that Israel was losing the support of the US and the international community.

“We’re losing our deterrence. Israel has become a country that is not being managed,” he said. “Even today, Israeli citizens are showing their impressive ability to stand in the face of terror. The security apparatus was and remains one of the best in the world. The problem is with leadership.”

Responding to Lapid, Netanyahu’s Likud party charged that Lapid was the one endangering Israel by refusing to telegraph a message of unity.

“While Israel is fighting on three fronts and after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited him for a comprehensive security update, Yair Lapid chose to engage in petty politics, rather than broadcasting a message of unequivocal unity to our enemies,” a Likud statement said.

The party accused Lapid of causing “critical harm” by agreeing last year to a deal with Lebanon delineating maritime borders while he was prime minister, and claimed Lapid is widely quoted in Iran as someone forecasting Israel’s downfall.

“At a time when [Hezbollah head Hassan] Nasrallah and [Hamas politburo head Ismail] Haniyeh are sitting together under a picture of the Iranian patron who calls for our annihilation, I would expect more national responsibility from the opposition leader,” Likud said. There was no immediate statement from Netanyahu himself.

Netanyahu and Lapid held the rare face-to-face meeting Sunday in order to discuss the security situation at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

A picture of the meeting at military headquarters in Tel Aviv showed both politicians sitting tensely as military secretary Avi Gil looked on with a nervous smile.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid holds a press conference in Tel Aviv on April 9, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Tensions have skyrocketed across the region in recent days after tit-for-tat rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and Israeli strikes, a major rocket barrage from Lebanon, clashes at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, rocket attacks from Syria, and a suspected Iranian drone launched from Syria last week.

There have also been several suspected terror attacks, with two Israeli sisters from the West Bank settlement of Efrat shot dead on Friday, an Italian tourist rammed to death in Tel Aviv, three soldiers hurt in a car-ramming attack a week earlier, and two more soldiers hurt in separate shooting attacks on Wednesday and Thursday.

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