Prime Minister and Yesh Atid Party chair Yair Lapid will not form a coalition with the support of the Arab Joint List, Yesh Atid ministers and MKs said over the past few days.
This represents a shift from Lapid’s prior position that he would cooperate with the Joint List if necessary, which he expressed after the coalition lost its majority when MK Idit Silman (Yamina) left the coalition on April 6.
In a speech at the beginning of a Yesh Atid faction meeting on Wednesday, Lapid said the election was an opportunity to form a “broad and stable national government, without the extremists.”
Then, in a speech on Thursday at a conference held by “IDEA: The Center for Liberal Democracy,” Lapid elaborated and said what Israel needed was a government without extremists on both sides. According to Lapid, extremists on one side called on the state to expel all of its Arab minority, while the other extreme was a state of “all its citizens,” meaning without its Jewish character. Neither will happen, Lapid said.
“We can and need to give them [the Arab-Israeli minority] civil freedom. On the other hand, we will not give them national freedom since this is the Jews’ only country and we do not have any intention to give up on Israel’s Jewish character,” he said.
Lapid’s comment mirrored the policy of the Ra’am Party but essentially rejected that of the Joint List. Ministers and MKs from his party affirmed that this indeed was his intention.
"We can and need to give them [the Israeli-Arab minority] civil freedom. On the other hand, we will not give them national freedom since this is the Jews' only country and we do not have any intention to give up on Israel's Jewish character."Prime Minister Yair Lapid
In an interview on Arab-language Radio Nas on Thursday, Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen said, “We will form a government without extremists on either side. On one side people with fascist and anti-liberal opinions, and on the other people who deny that Israel is the state of the Jewish people.”
A revenge plot?
The Joint List is planning “revenge,” and if Lapid continues rejecting them they may decide to support Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s bid for prime minister, Channel 12 reported on Friday night.
However, the shift in strategy may not yet be clear-cut. In an interview on KAN on Sunday morning, Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern did not give a clear answer on whether Yesh Atid would or would not cooperate with the Joint List, raising speculations about the sincerity of the party’s new position. Stern said repeatedly that no Joint List MKs would serve as ministers, but did not commit to them not being part of a coalition or not supporting a coalition in votes without officially joining it.
Lapid and Cohen’s comments came after the Likud campaign accused Lapid of being unable to form a government without support from the Joint List and attacked him for agreeing to cooperate with them after Silman’s departure.
In response to Yesh Atid’s new strategy, the Likud went back to attacking the party over its cooperation with Ra’am, and not with the Joint List. The Likud released two videos over the weekend that claimed a vote for either Lapid or Gantz would lead to Ra’am chair Mansour Abbas and the “Muslim Brotherhood” sitting in the government. Ra’am’s MKs are chosen by the Shura Council, a group of religious Muslim figures belonging to the Islamic Movement’s southern faction.