Prime Minister Yair Lapid hit back at Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday after the Likud leader accused him of attempting a revolt against Netanyahu’s incoming government.
In a Facebook post, the prime minister-designate “strongly condemned” what he called an attempt by Lapid to call on senior military officers and mayors to rebel against his future government. “Lapid’s behavior is dangerous and harmful to democracy,” Netanyahu wrote.
Lapid issued a response shortly afterwards, stating he would “not take lectures” from Netanyahu on democracy. “You had no respect for democracy for even a single moment in the past 18 months. We will fight on and find every legal avenue to maintain Israel’s status as a Jewish, democratic and liberal state,” he added.
Earlier on Friday, Lapid called on local authorities to use their authority to combat changes that far-right Noam Party leader Avi Maoz may make with the external education programming unit that is set to be under his control in the incoming government on Thursday.
A copy of the coalition agreement between Maoz and the Likud seen on Wednesday revealed that Maoz will receive control of the Education Ministry’s unit responsible for external programming at schools.
The Unit for External Programs and Promotion of Partnerships is responsible for “the development and leading of dialogue between societal sectors in the units of the Education Ministry while imparting skills for sharing processes and creating a culture of participatory governance.” Everything from art programs to science programs to political and societal programs are offered by external organizations with the approval of the unit.
“I am writing to you with great concern for the future of the education system and the state, since the new government established in Israel has abandoned the education of our children and handed them over to the most extreme and dark elements in Israeli society,” wrote Lapid in the letter, which was published on the letterhead of the Prime Minister’s Office.
“This is a direct and dangerous threat to the most fundamental values on which the State of Israel is based, as they are stated in the declaration of independence – fully equal societal rights, equality for women, equality for LGBTQ+ people, protection of minorities, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.”
Lapid stressed to the local authorities that the “heavy responsibility for the educational content that our children will learn in schools” will be passed to them and called on them not to cooperate with the external programming unit being transferred to Maoz.
The prime minister told the authorities that “in order to keep the education system stately and liberal, as it has been until now, and to exercise the right of the local government to shape education in its field, you must now act as gatekeepers.”
Lapid noted that, if necessary, local authorities should fund educational programs from local budgets and coordinate with parents and principals.
Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir responded to Lapid’s letter on Friday, stating “There is a fine line between freedom of expression, which is important (and we all believe in it) and incitement, sedition, and damage to the government’s authority.”
“The behavior of elements in the opposition is irresponsible, dangerous and could lead to a slippery slope. Criticism is allowed, but conduct that does not accept the authority of the elected government just because its expected decisions are not in Lapid’s spirit, is promiscuous, problematic behavior that hurts all parts of the Israeli people and may tear the people apart.”
Religious Zionist MK Simcha Rothman called Lapid’s letter “shocking” saying that the prime minister was calling on local authorities “not to respect the results of the election.”
Localities warn they won't allow education to be impacted by Maoz
On Thursday night, the Forum of 14, a collective of women serving as the heads of localities, sent a letter to prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu expressing "great concern" at the decision to give Maoz power over the external programming unit.
The Forum of 14 noted that Maoz is against a number of values that are central in the Israeli education system including gender equality, LGBTQ+ people, and enlistment to the IDF, among other issues.
"As women who head localities across the country, we cannot stay apathetic to harsh statements made by the incoming minister set to head a department against equality for women in Israel and their role in political and public systems. Statements that harm the many efforts, that we are a part of, to allow every girl in Israel the chance to lead and be whatever she chooses to be," wrote the forum.
"We believe that the education of our daughters must remain outside the political game and that the role of the education system is to create for them a supportive system that exposes them to all parts of Israeli society."
Haim Bibas, chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, stated that "The heads of the local authorities are the only decision-makers and will continue to determine the policy within the areas of their authority. We will make sure and insist that the status quo does not change," according to Army Radio.
A number of municipalities announced on Thursday that they would use their local budgets to fund external programming that is threatened by Maoz.
As of Friday morning, Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Herzliya, Hod Hasharon, Ramat Hasharon, the Emek Hefer Regional Council, the Jezreel Valley Regional Council, the Gezer Regional Council, Kiryat Tivon, the Drom HaSharon Regional Council, Yehud-Monosson, Tel Mond, Kadima-Tzoran, Ganei Tikva and Kfar Yona had notified that they would act to prevent Maoz from influencing their local schools.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.