Vows to prevent annexation, which would be 'end of Zionism'

Launching campaign, Lapid denounces right-wing ‘incitement,’ lays out civil agenda

PM speaks of plans for laws blocking Netanyahu; commits to fight cost of living, pass ultra-Orthodox enlistment and civil marriage, keep Israel ‘democratic, Jewish, liberal’

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Prime Minister and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid speaks to party activists during a Yesh Atid party conference in Tel Aviv, August 3, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Prime Minister and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid speaks to party activists during a Yesh Atid party conference in Tel Aviv, August 3, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Speaking at a raucous election campaign launch event Monday night, Prime Minister and Yesh Atid Leader Yair Lapid denounced “the other side” of the political aisle for what he said was the hatred and incitement it is engaged in, and promised to “complete the work” of the outgoing government if his party manages to form another coalition.

The Yesh Atid leader made several campaign pledges, including recommitting to passing laws limiting prime ministerial terms and barring anyone with a criminal indictment from forming a government — a bill he said had been thwarted by the narrowest of margins within the outgoing coalition.

Such key Yesh Atid goals seen as designed to stop former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from taking office as premier again were blocked by right-wing elements of the government.

The prime minister also promised to reduce the cost of living and accused Netanyahu of failing to tackle rising living costs during his time in power.

And Lapid vowed to pass a civil marriage law, amend the nation-state law and give legal status to single-sex families.

Addressing an audience of over a thousand party activists, Lapid lauded the establishment of Yesh Atid ten years ago and its gradual political progress, culminating in the formation by his party of a government last year and his accession to the premiership, albeit on an interim basis, last month.

“We defeated the incitement and poison machine four times and we will beat it again the fifth time,” he declared, in reference to the four elections since 2019, receiving rowdy roars of approval from the party activists.

Lapid denounced what he said were the intentions of the Israeli right-wing to “crush the Supreme Court” and “annex five million Palestinians, which would bring Zionism to an end,” asserting that these goals were “openly expressed… frightening and dangerous.”

The prime minister also deliberately tied Netanyahu to far-right leader Itamar Ben Gvir of the Religious Zionism party, arguing that “more and more” people were concerned about a narrow right-wing government led by the former and which included the latter.

Left photo: Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at the Likud party’s election rally in Ramat Gan on February 29, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90); right photo: Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit party, holds a press conference in Jerusalem on February 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Lapid also focused heavily on achievements made over the last year and goals he set out for a future Yesh Atid-led government, should the election go its way.

He lauded accomplishments made by the outgoing government regarding the cost of living, including bringing the upcoming arrival of the French Carrefour supermarket group and the Dutch Spar retailer to Israel, which he said would increase competition and reduce prices.

The Yesh Atid leader said more such reforms were on the way and spoke of a project to create a million jobs in the high-tech sector.

Along with the term limits law and “indictee law,” Lapid said any new government he would lead would also pass legislation to increase ultra-Orthodox participation in society and the workforce.

He spoke of passing civil marriage legislation, a climate law, and “strengthening the status of teachers,” as well as more broadly strengthening “Israeli democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of the press.”

There was also a cursory nod to “a desire for peace with the Palestinians,” though nothing more concrete.

“Iran is a big challenge, terror is a challenge, the cost of living is a challenge, and the biggest challenge is to stop the extremism which threatens to dismantle us from within,” concluded Lapid.

“We have one, joint goal, to ensure that Israel is strong, democratic, Jewish, liberal, advanced and successful.”

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