Israel's Lapid-Bennett gov't was lax on economy - Netanyahu, Smotrich

Avigdor Liberman presented a poster showing that the rise in food prices over the past year in Israel was the lowest in the OECD.

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen walking in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 2, 2023. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen walking in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 2, 2023.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Lapid-Bennett government did not do enough to curb the constantly rising cost of living, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Monday.

"It is always harder to enter when a large pit was dug for you, but we have no choice but to act aggressively, wisely and effectively."

Benjamin Netanyahu

“It is always harder to enter when a large pit was dug for you, but we have no choice but to act aggressively, wisely and effectively,” Netanyahu said at the Likud faction meeting, according to a statement issued by his representative.

He accused the Lapid-Bennett government of ignoring the high cost of living and “enabling the situation to deteriorate.”

Smotrich said the former government did not recognize global economic trends on time and made decisions that burdened the public. He did not elaborate.

Smotrich, chairman of the Religious Zionist Party, and other party leaders addressed additional issues in their press conferences ahead of their weekly faction meetings.

 Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is seen speaking ahead of his Religious Zionist Party faction meeting at the Israeli Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 2, 2023. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is seen speaking ahead of his Religious Zionist Party faction meeting at the Israeli Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 2, 2023. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Regarding his order to cancel the tax on plasticware and soft drinks, which was criticized by many medical and environmental organizations, Smotrich said while he realized that diabetes was a serious problem, the way to reduce sugar consumption was by working constructively with the public and not instituting taxes.

Regarding the settlement of Homesh, Smotrich commended Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Justice Minister Yariv Levin for formulating the state’s new policy, which signaled a change from evacuations and destruction to increased construction.

Lapid and Gantz differ on how to respond to Israel's new Netanyahu-led government

Opposition leader Yair Lapid said the National Unity Party was a full partner in the fight to bring down the government.

Regarding the note he left in Netanyahu’s office, which said, “Lapid 2024,” he said he did not believe the government would last for more than a year and a half.

National Unity chairman Benny Gantz, the former defense minister, said he opposed the government and would not join it, but trying to trip up the government was not in the best interests of the citizens. Gantz hinted at comments he made last Thursday during the government’s swearing-in Knesset session, in which he criticized Yesh Atid MKs for heckling Netanyahu during the new prime minister’s speech.

“Statesmanlike conduct is not a wink to Netanyahu or a flinch facing his government’s decrees,” Gantz said. “It is [rather] the way to defeat them. I do not want to win a civil war; I want to prevent it.”

 Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman is seen holding a copy of Theodor Herzl's 'The Jewish State' ahead of his faction meeting in the Israeli Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 2, 2023. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman is seen holding a copy of Theodor Herzl's 'The Jewish State' ahead of his faction meeting in the Israeli Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 2, 2023. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Liberman: Netanyahu-led Israeli government is the "end of Zionism"

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, the former finance minister, said Netanyahu’s newly formed government represented “the end of Zionism.”

"The establishment of Netanyahu's sixth government is not the end of the State of Israel, it is the end of Zionism."

Avigdor Liberman

“The establishment of Netanyahu’s sixth government is not the end of the State of Israel; it is the end of Zionism,” he said ahead of his party’s faction meeting.

Liberman held up a copy of Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State and said the new government’s policies were the exact opposite of Herzl’s.

The siphoning of funds to yeshiva students and private haredi schools that do not teach core studies signaled the victory of “ignorance” over “enlightenment,” Liberman said.

Pioneers of the Jewish enlightenment, including Moses Mendelssohn and Naphtali Hirz Wessely, were “rolling over in their graves,” he added.

Regarding the economy and the high cost of living, Liberman presented a poster that showed the rise in food prices over the past year in Israel was the lowest in the OECD.

Merav Michaeli slams new Transportation Minister Miri Regev's policies

Labor chairwoman Merav Michaeli, the former transportation minister, ridiculed the policies of her successor, Miri Regev (Likud).

Regev on Monday reportedly said she would consider allowing private cars to drive on public transportation lanes at certain points of the day, a provision that already exists, Michaeli said. Regev also reportedly said she would freeze the Gush Dan Metro plan until the periphery had an adequate transportation system.

“And as long as Miri Regev is there, and the Likud government is there, there will be no solution for the periphery,” Michaeli said. “How do I know? Because they have been ‘in charge’ here for almost 40 years in a row, and they have not found a solution for the periphery. In fact, they perpetuate the periphery so they can shout that they will abolish the periphery.”

"We came to build the State of Israel: Zionist, egalitarian, the one that will be a home for the Jewish people and with equal rights. Not a home for corrupt deals and not to keep a person with three criminal indictments in power."

Merav Michaeli

“We came to build the State of Israel – Zionist, egalitarian, the one that will be a home for the Jewish people and with equal rights – not a home for corrupt deals and not to keep a person with three criminal indictments in power,” she said.

Likud puts forward proposals for Knesset committee makeup

Also on Monday, the Likud proposed the makeup of Knesset committees. During the previous Knesset’s tenure, the Likud said it had been “trampled” and not given enough spots on important committees.

Likud MK Yoav Kisch, the ministerial liaison to the Knesset, said the overriding principle for appointments to committees was to “do to you exactly what you [in the previous Knesset] did to us.”

The Likud in the previous Knesset had 29 seats. Yesh Atid in the current Knesset has 24. To give Yesh Atid the “same treatment,” the Likud chose a party with five seats, Ra’am (United Arab List), and distributed spots on the committees as if Yesh Atid and Ra’am were one party with an equal 29 seats. Yesh Atid MKs opposed the move. As the largest party in the opposition, it deserved greater representation than what it was given, they said.

Part of the motivation for this move was to force Yesh Atid to haggle with Ra’am over the spots they were given and to create tension with National Unity, which was not lumped together with another party, they said.

Kisch reportedly said in a closed Knesset meeting on Monday evening that his intention was to sow discord among the opposition parties.

A notable difference between the previous and current Knesset, however, was that the coalition ensured it had a majority in the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, indicating its seriousness of intention in pushing through reforms on this issue.

According to the proposal, which was put forward by Kisch and Knesset Arrangement Committee chairman Ofir Katz (Likud), the 15-member committee that will likely debate any future changes to the Law of Return will be led by a member of Yisrael Beytenu for the first half of the Knesset’s tenure and a member of Labor in the second half and will be comprised of eight members from the coalition and seven members from the opposition.

This differs from the previous Knesset, in which the opposition was offered both to lead the committee and to have a three-person majority.

Every bill in the Knesset is debated and amended in one of the committees. The committee head controls the pace of the discussions, but they cannot veto laws from passing. The coalition’s majority thus enables the committee to pass any law that comes its way, including controversial changes to the Law of Return, such as the cancellation of the Grandchild Clause, which would bar people who have a Jewish grandparent but are not Jewish according to Halacha from immigrating.

Out of the 15 permanent Knesset committees, the opposition was offered to lead four: the State Control Committee, the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, the Science and Technology Committee and the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs.

The makeup of the committees was presented on Monday in the Knesset Arrangements Committee and will be voted on later this week.

Despite attempts to sow discord in the opposition, the opposition showed its first signs of uniting on Monday. All of its party leaders made a joint agreement not to offset coalition MKs in voting. Offsetting is when an MK cannot attend a vote, usually for personal reasons, and an MK from across the aisle agrees not to attend the vote to “cancel each other out.”

It is an accepted Knesset practice. The proposal not to agree to any of the coalition’s offsetting requests was first put forward by Michaeli. Its significance is that the coalition needs to ensure that it has a majority on every vote.

Israeli ministries hold handover ceremonies

A number of additional “handover” ceremonies in government ministries took place on Monday. More than a dozen were held on Sunday.

These included Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi replacing Yoaz Hendel, Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli replacing Nachman Shai and Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf replacing Oded Forer.

Israeli ministers resign under Norwegian Law

Meanwhile, Culture and Sport Minister Miki Zohar (Likud) on Monday resigned from the Knesset as part of the Norwegian Law, which allows ministers to resign from the Knesset and for the next person on the party list to enter in his place. Dan Illouz, a native of Canada, will enter the Knesset in Zohar’s stead.

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu (Otzma Yehudit) had already resigned under the Norwegian Law and was replaced by MK Yitzhak Kroizer, who was sworn in to the Knesset on Monday afternoon.