The international community is sick of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wants the Blue and White Party to form the next government, the party’s No. 2 candidate, Yair Lapid, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview in Tel Aviv on Sunday.
Lapid has traveled the world and built up strong ties with a variety of world leaders. If Blue and White wins the April 9 general election, he would be foreign minister under Benny Gantz for the first two-and-a-half years and prime minister for the following year and a half as part of the power-sharing agreement they reached when they formed the party.
“Many of the world leaders I am in touch with desperately want Netanyahu to go,” Lapid said. “Bibi has a problem with the Democratic Party, the more moderate Republicans, the majority of US Jews and the European Union – except [for] some Eastern European countries, especially Poland to whom he shamelessly surrendered the memory of the Jews who died there in WWII. He is doing well in some parts of Africa, Latin America and [with] the American president.”
Lapid said that as foreign minister and then prime minister, he would restore Israel’s bipartisan stature and recognize the Reform and Conservative movements. He said Israel has been insulting the majority of North American Jews for too long. He would also try to repair Israel’s ties with the European Union, which is the Jewish state’s largest trading partner.
“We will apply the Kotel [Western Wall] deal in the shortest possible amount of time – but the thing with politics is that it has to do with the amount of power you have,” he said. “Within three months, there will be a Kotel framework and recognition of all streams of Judaism in this country. This is why I keep telling people they have to make a decision.”
Regarding Lapid’s vow to restore dialogue with both sides of the aisle in Washington, he said that includes the Democratic Party’s controversial new congresswomen.
“The same way we expect the IDF to show up to every battle, I expect the Foreign Ministry to show up to every battle,” he said. “[New York Congresswoman] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is someone we need to talk to, in order to make sure she has the real facts about Israel. Otherwise, she only hears the other side.”
Lapid said that while Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has used unacceptable language, he would not rule out engaging with her as well.
“We have to sit with everyone,” he said. “Anyone who would hear the real facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would sympathize with us. “What those two Congresswomen don’t know is that the Palestinians are suffering not because of Israel but because of the Palestinian leaders.”
Lapid said that if Blue and White loses the election, his alliance with Gantz would stay together, because Netanyahu’s government would last less than a year and then fall apart, after an indictment expected to be issued by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit. He said he expected Gantz to keep his word and not join Netanyahu’s government.
He rejected speculation that President Reuven Rivlin would ask Netanyahu to form the government if the Center-Right wins a majority on April 9, even if Blue and White wins more seats than Netanyahu’s Likud.
“In an election, someone loses and someone wins,” he said. “If we win by four or five seats, no force on Earth can stop us from forming the government.”
He also said that he doesn’t think Gantz will try to enter Netanyahu’s government if the Likud leader receives the presidential mandate to form the next government. If Blue and White wins the elections, he said the first phone calls would be to a “post-Netanyahu” Likud and the Labor Party, as part of an effort to form a national unity government.
“I think [it] will be part of the healing process that the Israeli people need,” he said.
Blue and White’s message, he said, is that it is possible to lead a party, bring change to the country, not be corrupt and put the Israeli people first.
“Bibi is not going to do anything different now that he hasn’t done in 13 years,” Lapid said. “He has been there too long, and it is time for change… Having a government that works for you is going to be a refreshing change for the country – one that works for you, is not corrupt and has new ideas.”
Regarding Gaza, Lapid said that Netanyahu’s mistake was not using the quiet during the three years after Operation Protective Edge in 2014 to bring real change to the Gaza Strip. His party, he said, would advance humanitarian projects and work to change the reality in Gaza to create a price for Hamas if it decides to engage in terrorism against Israel.
Lapid said that the current election campaign was the “ugliest, filthiest and [most] shameful campaign” in Israeli history, and that it has made him angry and disgusted. He said that there was always negativity that came from the “margins,” but that now, it is coming from the “primary candidates” like Netanyahu.
“The worst language and the lowest standards – verbal and behavioral – are those of Bibi, and he is desperate. I never saw anything like it: that an Israeli prime minister is going out there, spreading the worst false rumors in a way you don’t see among the worst European populists.”
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