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Israel Opposition leader says he was “surprised and bitterly betrayed” by Gantz joining Netanyahu to form government

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Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid party and opposition leader in the Knesset, being interviewed by Igal Hecht of TheJ.Ca | Photos taken by Lior Cohen

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For over a year and a half  I’ve been trying to nail down an interview with Yair Lapid. After multiple elections, flights back and forth between Canada and Israel, the answer was always, “he’s too busy.” But I’m persistent and I kept saying thank you and that I’d reach out again. As the second wave of the pandemic loomed over Israel, his spokesman was in a friendlier mood. 

Maybe it was the protests, or just the shock that I flew to Israel during a pandemic to continue filming my never-ending documentary about the Israeli elections, whatever it was, I was told I’d finally get my ten minutes with Lapid. 

When they say ten minutes, you automatically agree and you just never leave the room until you’ve asked all your questions.  

Yair Lapid is a former journalist, author, TV presenter, song writer and even an actor. He entered politics in 2012 and formed the centrist political party of Yesh Atid. He served as Minister of Finance from 2013-2014. On May 17, 2020 Lapid became the Leader of the opposition. 

We met in his office in the Knesset and I made those “ten minutes” count. 

In February of 2019, during the first election, you decided to join forces with Benny Gantz and together you formed the Blue and White party. What did you see in him that made you believe that he should be the next Prime Minister of Israel? 

It was more the idea than the people involved… We were sitting in a big yard outside Tel-Aviv discussing everything and we said, there’s a real threat. That after 14 years of him [Benjamin Netanyahu] as prime minister, we have to put aside all personal ambitions and join forces to create a new body. We felt that if we go separately, we’re just giving him another term on a silver platter. 

What were some of the challenges that blue and white faced during the election campaigns? 

We were subjected to the worst kind of smearing campaign. The problem was we were playing by the rules and the other side didn’t and we did so as a decision, we made a decision to play by the rules. We knew this was a disadvantage. Netanyahu is fighting for not only his political life, but for staying out of jail. He will take no hostages in this fight. 

It’s no secret that you want to be the Prime Minister of Israel. What makes you the right person for the job? 

It’s always weird to sit opposite the camera in and compliment yourself, but I guess it comes with the territory, but I am probably the more capable player in terms of gathering the right team and working together for the good of Israel…   Right now the biggest problem of Israel is that it is run by a solo act of somebody who is not as good as he used to be. As well, we are living now in an era of a democratic recession, in which sole rulers have their way with nations and it’s killing us from within. 

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When the third election ended, the Blue and White party was looking to form a coalition with the Joint List political party. This was despite explicit promises during the campaign by yourself and other members, not to rely on what many perceived as an anti Zionist party. Some would even call the Joint List an anti-Israel political party. 

Why did you decide to try and form a coalition with a party even after saying, and I quote “You cannot be an Israeli patriot and sit with people who identify with the worst of our enemies.” 

Well, just to put the facts straight, we could have formed a government with the Joint List [political party] voting from the outside. They didn’t want to be part of the government and we didn’t ask them to be part of the government… It is true that Ballad [A political party which holds the power of 3 votes in the Joint List Party] is an anti-Zionist, sometimes even antisemitic party, but not all of the Joint List party is the same… Israeli Arabs are 20% of the population of the country. I don’t think that in a democracy you can tell people you are invited to vote, but we will not count your vote after the election. So I feel it was the right thing to do. 

When did you find out about Mr. Gantz’s decision to form a coalition with Netanyahu? Did you feel betrayed?  

The answer is yes. Yes. And yes … I was so surprised and bitterly betrayed. I was invited to this room, because this is the room of the leader of the official opposition. And [Gantz] was at the time, the leader of the opposition. He announced to me that he has decided to join Netanyahu’s government … I was shocked. It wasn’t even 24 hours since we last talked. It was like 13 maybe 14 hours. Who did he talk to? What did they talk about? I have no idea … I do not tend to take politics personally. If I want to take things personally, I have a wife and children for that. But this was also a personal hit. I felt that I gave my trust to the wrong people and I still do. 

I don’t know if it’s interesting to you politically, but it’s a decision I made a long time ago, even before I was in politics. I’d rather live a life of giving and trusting people and every now and then feel the pain of betrayal, rather than living a complete life of being suspicious and trusting no one.  But this was a painful moment, which forced me to examine this rule of mine. I still stick to the rule. I read and trust people. But it was painful. 

Lapid says Prime Minister Netanyahu “is openly attacking the free press, the courts, the opposition, even the right of people to demonstrate,” causing “a democratic recession.” Photos taken by Lior Cohen

We’re living in unprecedented times and Israel is certainly no exception. What are your thoughts about the current protests against Netanyahu? What is motivating them? 

Betrayal … They [the people] feel that they have put effort into this unbelievably amazing, wonderful project called the state of Israel. That in their moment of need, a government, who couldn’t care less about them, deserted them. 

They [the coalition] formed the government of 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers, which is ridiculous for a country the size of Israel. The prime minister spent a week in the finance committee discussing his own tax benefits in the middle of the crisis and showed no interest whatsoever in the real pain of the real people out there. So this is what the demonstrators are talking about. 

Before we started you said that the Israeli democracy is in danger. What does that mean? I keep hearing this from mostly opposition politicians and Israeli activists at the forefront of the protests. But I am still trying to wrap my mind around that. I’ve been out there for over 18 months filming three elections, dozens of protests with thousands of people, isn’t that what the basis of democracy is, or is this simply a tool to be used by the opposition? 

We are in the midst of a democratic recession. We are losing a brick and then another brick, and so it doesn’t sound too awful … So when the prime minister is openly attacking the free press, the courts, the opposition, even the right of people to demonstrate, then it’s a democratic recession. It’s eroding, slowly…   

I have a friend who used to be a parliament member in Turkey, and he lives now in Sweden. And he told me once something that haunted me a little, he said, I don’t even know when Turkey stopped being a democracy. And I said, what do you mean? And he said, I don’t know. He [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s Prime Minister] came at first, he said, the courts are so filled with people from the old regime and the judges are unfair and we have to have our own people … And then he [Erdoğan] came and he said, I’m all for free press, but free press doesn’t mean you’re allowed to lie and cheat and write the wrong things. We have to make it more truthful. And I said okay. And then one day I woke up, and we were not a democracy anymore. 

Are you comparing Turkey to Israel? 

The compassion of course is problematic and yet we have to understand that the democracies in the 21st century are threatened by erosion more than – it’s not by revolution, but by erosion. So we have to make sure this doesn’t happen here. 

——————-

Igal added this concluding note: 

As the interview ends and Lapid takes off his microphone, he jokingly asks, “are you coming back for number four?” “Most likely,” I answer,  “but if you guys keep having elections, I’ll be bankrupt by the time I finish filming this movie.” He jokingly replies, “so will the country.”

Igal Hecht is a documentary filmmaker and journalist who works all over the world. 


For more info visit www.chutzpaproductions.com

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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