Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid gave a fiery anti-corruption speech, demanding several times that corrupt people “give us back our country” at a Yesh Atid conference in Tel Aviv Thursday.
According to Lapid, his party spent the last two years fighting corruption. He did not shy away from saying exactly who he thinks is problematic, and expanded his definition of corruption from the criminal to what he perceived as a lack of integrity.
Lapid mentioned the investigation of Yisrael Beytenu Secretary-General Faina Kirschenbaum and Regional Council heads associated with her party, Likud and others.
However, he said corruption is not just abusing public funds, it is “the violation of the most basic contract between the State of Israel and its people, and we founded Yesh Atid to rebuild that contract... to put the country before ourselves.”
The former finance minister recounted a dispute with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Construction Minister Uri Ariel in October, in which he refused to allow the transfer of NIS 300 million to build roads and public buildings in towns in Samaria.
“That is money that goes directly to those who vote for them in the primaries....
I refused, because that is corruption, and I broke up the meeting. When [Yesh Atid] left the government, it took them exactly a minute to do everything we prevented.
That same NIS 300m. was transferred two weeks ago, because we weren’t there to look after the public purse,” Lapid said.
Lapid called it corrupt for Netanyahu to attempt to have the government buy a plane for him and the president to use for official visits, which Yesh Atid voted against, and called the proposed government plane a “private jet.”
He said of the prime minister: “Corruption is ordering pistachio ice cream to your home from the public purse, Mr. Prime Minister, and to transfer garden furniture to the villa in Caesarea, [and] insisting that money for your swimming pool be repaid.”
“The veteran Likudniks are ashamed,” Lapid rebuked Netanyahu.
“They don’t understand this hedonism, what happened to their party, why the head of their party can’t fly to London, a five-hourflight, without a bed on the plane. They don’t understand why the government has to pay for three houses for you.
That’s not the Likud. That’s going off the rails. That’s corruption.”
Lapid called economic problems, which he said Netanyahu caused in his previous term, corruption, saying the budget was “fattened up with billions of shekels to heads of regional councils from the Likud.”
“Whoever takes money from education, health and welfare and wastes it for his own political gain is corrupt,” he declared.
Lapid did not hold back, taking aim at other political figures, as well.
On Labor, he said: “We will always remind [them] that they didn’t vote for the equality in the burden [haredi conscription] bill just to get close to the convicted felon [Shas leader] Arye Deri.”
Referring to past corruption scandals involving former defense minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor), respectively, Lapid said corruption is “when a defense minister can’t explain where he has money for a NIS 9m. penthouse and no one, including the fighters for social justice in the Labor Party, says a word,” as well as “creating fake charities to channel illegal funds during elections.”
Describing a scandal involving Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett from early 2013, Lapid said “corruption is to hire private investigators to record in secret senior people in your party while they buy votes and then to leak it to the press and pretend you’re surprised.”
“Behind Bennett’s smile is a sectoral party that cares only about its institutions, yeshivas and settlements,” he accused.
Lapid brought up a recent report that Ariel sold public housing without a tender to religious councils, and called on Bennett remove Ariel from his list for the next Knesset.
“A person who takes from the poor of Israel and gives to his associates shouldn’t be guaranteed a place in a party that speaks of Jewish values,” Lapid posited.
Ariel responded that Lapid caused great damage to Israel’s economy and was against making it easier for the poor to attain public housing, so he should not preach morality to anyone.
The construction minister’s spokesman said none of the apartments in the report were actually sold, and Lapid is “like any other populist relying on a biased report full of slander that is meant to politically harm Bayit Yehudi, specifically Ariel.”
Lapid lamented that MKs’ salaries went up with the new year Thursday, which Yesh Atid MK Shimon Solomon has fought against for the past year, and vowed to donate his pay increase to charity, because “the Knesset isn’t even working, MKs are only working on primaries... [and] none of the MKs deserve it.”
The Yesh Atid leader pledged his party would work to take the country back from corrupt people.
“We need to return to being a country where the strong cares for the weak, and doesn’t trample them,” Lapid declared. “It’s hard to believe that we reached a situation where we need to demand to live in a country that isn’t corrupt.
It’s hard to believe that it isn’t obvious.”
He expressed confidence that his party can fight corruption and for public influence, with enough determination.
“We don’t intend to give up. We will go on and fight, with all our strength, until we ensure that every citizen in Israel knows one thing: There is a future,” he said, which is the meaning of Yesh Atid.