Lapid: 'You will have no legacy except this destruction'

PM says Israel ‘committed’ to Biden’s offer despite earlier endorsing ‘partial deal’

At fiery Knesset debate, Netanyahu appears to contradict previous statement on hostage-truce proposal, claims contentious submarine deals ‘essential’ for security against Iran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a '40 signatures' discussion in the Knesset plenum, Jerusalem, June 24, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a '40 signatures' discussion in the Knesset plenum, Jerusalem, June 24, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced that the country is “committed to the Israeli [ceasefire] proposal welcomed by [US] President Biden. Our position has not changed,” during a Knesset session called by opposition MKs.

During the fiery parliamentary debate, Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid traded barbs, with each leaving and returning to the Knesset podium several times to rebut each other’s charges, while other MKs shouted and interjected from the plenum floor.

Netanyahu’s statement on the hostage release and ceasefire proposal appeared to contradict a Sunday evening TV interview in which he said he was “prepared to do a partial deal… that would return some of the people to us,” while being “obligated to continue the fighting after a pause in order to complete our goal of destroying Hamas.”

The Israeli proposal, announced by Biden in late May, is believed to provide for a temporary ceasefire in the first phase of the deal, to be extended into “a sustainable calm (cessation of military operations and hostilities permanently)” in the second phase.

However, Netanyahu has repeatedly denied that the Israeli proposal provides for ending the war before Israel achieves its two declared goals of destroying Hamas and bringing home all the hostages.

In the Knesset on Monday, Netanyahu insisted that Israel’s campaign in Gaza will continue “until we eliminate Hamas’s military and government capabilities. Until we return our 120 hostages, both dead and alive, until we can guarantee that Gaza is no longer a threat to Israel and until the residents of the south and the north can return safely to their homes.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a ’40 signatures’ debate in the Knesset plenum, Jerusalem, June 24, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

“Nothing will stop us,” he said, adding that Israel is in “an existential fight, on seven fronts… led by Iran.”

“We will thwart this campaign. We will thwart it because Iran is wrong about us — big time,” he said, charging that Tehran fails to “take into account our strength, our capabilities and our determination to defend ourselves and exact a devastating price from our attackers.”

Responding Monday to Netanyahu’s remarks, the US State Department suggested the premier misspoke, noting his office later released a statement blaming Hamas for not agreeing to the proposed deal.

“I think all of us who speak publicly at times make mistakes… and when we do so we have an obligation to come and clarify, and we’re glad he did,” spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Former war cabinet observer MK Gadi Eisenkot told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee earlier on Monday that Netanyahu’s comments the previous evening contradicted decisions made by the war cabinet.

“As someone who sat in the cabinet, there were only two options: a full deal all at once, or a comprehensive deal in three stages. The cabinet voted unanimously on this, and therefore Netanyahu’s statement about a ‘partial deal’ is contrary to the war cabinet’s decisions,” he said. “Maybe it was a slip of the tongue… This requires immediate clarification from the prime minister.”

Hamas kidnapped 251 people on October 7, when thousands of terrorists led by the group stormed southern Israel to kill some 1,200 people, sparking the war in Gaza. It is believed that 116 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza, though dozens are believed dead.

Taking the podium after Netanyahu during Monday’s Knesset session, Lapid lashed out, “Mr. Prime Minister, the amazing thing is that you still don’t get it. You haven’t caught on yet. There will be no legacy. There won’t be a museum named after you, there won’t be a square, there won’t be a Benjamin Netanyahu fountain. There will be only one thing — October 7.”

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid speaks during a ’40 signatures’ debate in the Knesset plenum, Jerusalem, June 24, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Pointing to the government’s failures in the leadup to Hamas’s massacre in southern Israel, Lapid said to Netanyahu, “Everything you predicted, came out the other way around. You said that Hamas was deterred and would not attack. I know you want us to forget it, but we haven’t.”

“You will have no legacy except this destruction. All that will be left of you are two lines in the history books, reading: ‘Under his watch, the Jewish people suffered the most terrible massacre since the Holocaust and he refused to take responsibility until he was removed.’ This. That’s all that will be written.”

The opposition leader went on to charge that Netanyahu’s “entire goal, from the moment he walked in here, is not to talk about the submarines” — earlier Monday, a state commission of inquiry cautioned the prime minister regarding his conduct in the so-called “submarine affair.”

The commission has been probing corruption and bribery allegations in a series of murky submarine and naval vessel deals worth some $2 billion in submarine and naval vessel purchases that occurred under a previous Netanyahu government. It was launched by Lapid and Naftali Bennett’s rotation government in 2022.

An 11-page statement released by the commission on Monday said that Netanyahu, during his term as prime minister between 2009 and 2016, made decisions with “significant implications for security” without an orderly decision-making process, bypassed his own government in order to come to agreements with Germany on a series of political, security and economic issues, and made defense purchases “without orderly staff work [while] deviating from the operational needs established by the government.”

“God forbid we ask the questions that need to be asked,” Lapid quipped.

MK Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope) also brought up the “submarine affair,” charging that “The State of Israel is under caution,” after the commission cautioned the prime minister that he may be negatively impacted by the investigation’s findings.

New Hope chair MK Gideon Sa’ar speaks at a “40 signatures discussion” in the Knesset plenum, Jerusalem, June 24, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Noting that Netanyahu has been accused of bypassing his cabinet, ministers, the security establishment and others in his decision-making, Sa’ar exclaimed: “You’re not an emperor! You’re not a king!”

In his Knesset remarks, despite claiming that he did not “intend to refer to commissions of inquiry during wartime,” the prime minister defended his decisions regarding the submarine and warship purchases, saying that they “were and are essential to guaranteeing our security against Iran’s ‘Axis of Evil.'”

He said that some of the vessels had been used by the military during the ongoing war in Gaza, and that they “saved many lives.”

“What would have happened if I hadn’t made the decision to bring these ships? Are you talking to me about bureaucratic procedures? I am talking about Israel’s security. My decision was essential for Israel’s security. Reality has already proven this, and history will prove it even more decisively,” Netanyahu said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid attend a ’40 signatures’ debate at the Knesset plenum, Jerusalem, June 24, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Sa’ar also attacked the government for failing to appoint a new Supreme Court president, accusing it of “still trying” to “crush [Israel’s] constitutional and governmental traditions.”

“You’re acting intentionally to create chaos,” he said. “Why? Because the justice minister does not have a majority on the committee to select whoever he wants. So what do you do? Select no one!”

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara on Sunday said it was “extremely unreasonable” that Justice Minister Yariv Levin had not convened a vote to choose a Supreme Court president, adding that the lack of a permanent appointment “seriously wounds” the judicial branch of government.

The debate came after protesters staged a week of anti-government demonstrations around the country, demanding early elections. The protesters have also called for a general strike to be declared across Israel as a way of putting pressure on the government to close a deal to secure the release of the remaining hostages.

“The next government will not be a left-wing government and it will not be a right-wing government, it will be the government of the sane,” Lapid said Monday in the Knesset plenum.

Sam Sokol contributed to this report. 

Most Popular
read more: