Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu..
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Prominent Likud MKs went after Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid on Wednesday, after he was revealed as a central witness in one of the police investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Coalition chairman David Amsalem slammed Lapid, quoting from the Amida prayer: “May there be no hope for the informers.”
“I was taught when I was a kid, don’t snitch, no one will ever want to sit with you,” Amsalem said during the budget debate in the Knesset on Tuesday night. “You’re a pathetic snitch! Aren’t you ashamed?”
Lapid responded on Wednesday, saying he “heard the prime minister and the group surrounding him, including the coalition chairman and ministers, who dared suggest that there is an option not to tell the truth when the police ask you to help them uncover what really happened in a serious corruption investigation.
“That’s how criminals talk, not public servants,” Lapid said.
The Yesh Atid leader told Netanyahu’s supporters not to threaten him: “We can’t be intimidated. We will not let you make this a country where honest people are scared of telling the truth.”
A Likud spokesman said that Lapid should “stop whining and trying to distract from the simple question: How, as finance minister, did he hold meetings with his close friend and former employer Arnon Milchan [who is at the center of one of Netanyahu’s investigations] and wasn’t questioned [by police] under caution for it?”
Earlier on Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called it “the most absurd thing that the police’s central witness is a man who wants to replace Netanyahu as prime minister.
“If Yair Lapid wants to replace Netanyahu, he should earn the public’s trust and not do it through the police. We are here to protect Israeli democracy,” she said, in both a speech before the Knesset Wednesday and a video posted on her Facebook soon thereafter.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev referred to a poster of a guillotine that was waved at the weekly Saturday night anti-corruption demonstrations in Tel Aviv, saying: “Lapid is known as someone who wants to replace the prime minister. He didn’t succeed in an election, and he joined those... who want to take off Netanyahu’s head.”
Knesset Interior Committee chairman Yoav Kisch, whose panel deals with police issues, also set his sights on the Yesh Atid chairman, calling it a “new, bizarre situation in which the ‘key witness’ against [Netanyahu] is Yair Lapid, a current political rival trying to take the prime minister’s place.
“Do the members of the opposition want to live in a country where policemen are investigator, prosecutor and judge?” Kisch wondered. “I don’t.”
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, of United Torah Judaism, also slammed Lapid, accusing him of an “attempted putsch.”
MK Mickey Levy of Yesh Atid, a former Jerusalem police chief, responded sharply to the accusations against Lapid, saying that Amsalem’s comments “reminded me of conversations within crime families.
“It’s sad to me to see that, in the eyes of a senior MK, testifying to the police as part of a criminal investigation is an inappropriate act of ‘snitching,’” Levy lamented. “Lapid was asked to testify, and that is what he did. That is what is expected of any law-abiding citizen when law enforcement turns to him.”
MK Yael German, also of Yesh Atid, said, “The attempt to turn Lapid into the central issue is nothing more than political spin.”
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni also came to Lapid’s defense.
“The threats to Lapid, who fulfilled his civic duty and testified to the police when he was asked to, and the shouts of ‘Snitch’ and ‘No one will sit with you’ are obstruction of justice and part of the orchestrated campaign to save Netanyahu at the price of destroying democracy. Today there are only two sides: those who protect the rule of law, and those destroying it,” Livni said.