Presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Monday for “spreading lies” against the elected incoming government.
In a Facebook post, Netanyahu said Lapid and outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz “are refusing to accept the results of the election and are spreading false fears against a government chosen by the majority of the public.” Lapid, he went on, “is waging a campaign meant to delegitimize the people’s choice.”
Lapid, for his part, railed against Netanyahu for portraying his criticism of the incoming coalition and its far-right members as sedition, saying he was just getting started.
“If you think what I’ve been saying in the last few days is seditious, I have news for you, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I’m only getting started,” he said.
On Friday, Netanyahu castigated Lapid for “attempting to incite rebellion among military officers and local authorities against the elected government.”
His comments came after Lapid was reported to warn a military general against allowing the far-right “to gain control over the military.”
On Facebook on Monday, Netanyahu said he was “determined to rule and to execute the policy we were elected for, and to benefit all Israeli citizens,” adding: “For 20 years, I’ve led Israel forward in all areas — and I intend to do so this time as well.”
In recent days, Lapid and other outgoing coalition members including Gantz have issued bitter criticism of coalition agreements signed between Netanyahu and his far-right and religious coalition partners. In particular, they have protested the granting of oversight of some educational programming to the intended deputy minister for “Jewish Identity” Avi Maoz, of the homophobic far-right Noam party, and in the past 24 hours, the empowering of Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich with far-reaching defense authority. Under a new agreement, Smotrich, who is set to become finance minister, is also to be a minister in the Defense Ministry, where he will hold extensive powers over the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Activities in the West Bank (COGAT) and the Civil Administration, responsible for the government’s civil policy within the West Bank.
“Here are some facts to face the lies,” Netanyahu said Monday, in response to the criticism.
“‘The Defense Ministry will be dismantled’ — a lie. The Civil Administration constitutes less than one-thousandth of a percent of the Defense Ministry and will remain within the Defense Ministry.”
Lapid also railed against a deal handing over control of external programming at schools to anti-LGBT MK Avi Maoz, and urged local authorities to oppose extremist content pushed by Maoz.
That agreement led to intense pushback, with dozens of local authorities warning they would resist any attempt by Maoz to push radical agendas.
“‘The Education Ministry will be handed over to Maoz’ — a lie,” Netanyahu continued. “Avi Maoz will only deal with external programs used by the Education Ministry that constitute about one-thousandth of a percent of the overall education budget, and he will be subject to the prime minister. The Education Ministry will still determine the curriculum.”
Finally, addressing concerns in Israel’s LGBT community over Maoz’s appointment, Netanyahu said: “‘The government will act against the LGBT community’ — a lie. We won’t hurt LGBT rights and will maintain the status quo regarding religion and state.”
Lapid later said at a faction meeting of his Yesh Atid party Monday: “Netanyahu said this week that the fact that I am calling on the heads of the authorities not to cooperate with Maoz is sedition. There is no limit to this man’s shamelessness.”
“We are not your suckers. We are not here just to pay taxes and send our children to the army. Most of the people are against this conduct, including the Likudniks,” he added.
Meanwhile, Gantz, who has urged other parties that are set to be part of the opposition to join the struggle for the character of the state, said Monday that the next defense minister — likely Likud MK Yoav Gallant — will have to actively guard against military powers being peeled off and handed out to far-right coalition partners.
Otzma Yehudit chief Itamar Ben Gvir is slated to receive authority over West Bank Border Police as part of his planned role in the new National Security Ministry, whereas a minister from Religious Zionism will get the aforementioned role in the Defense Ministry, overseeing civil life in the West Bank.
“I would like to say to my replacement: If you take the position as it is presented to you, your task will be to become the contractor for the dismantling of the security apparatus and the IDF,” he said, urging his replacement to “explain the danger to [Netanyahu] and make sure these things don’t happen.”
Carrie Keller-Lynn and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.