Lapid interviewed on state of politics, Netanyahu and third election

In an extensive interview given to Ynet, Blue and White Party second-in-command Yair Lapid gave his opinion on a variety of issues facing the Israeli political system.

Blue and White co-leader Yair Lapid speaks at the inauguration of the new Knesset, October 3 2019 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Blue and White co-leader Yair Lapid speaks at the inauguration of the new Knesset, October 3 2019
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
In an extensive interview given to Ynet, Blue and White Party No. 2 Yair Lapid gave his opinion on a variety of issues facing the Israeli political system, including about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the upcoming March 2020 election and the general state of Israeli politics.
In the interview given on Sunday morning, Lapid said that he “didn’t want to see the prime minister in prison,” further adding that “pardon is a legal concept – Netanyahu must first accept responsibility for his actions and express remorse. I am not in favor of legislation in personalized cases, when the matter comes up – we will address it."
When pressed on the matter by the interviewer, Lapid said that "I am not saying anything to him; the situation right now is that he has three serious indictments, and he cannot serve as the Israeli prime minister. He has dragged us to a third election, and I think he is busy with his pardon and immunity. We are in a situation where the debate is between the state and Bibi, and we must choose the country.”
Regarding the recent cancellation of the rotation deal between himself and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Lapid noted that everyone in the party is united and behind Gantz. He also emphasized that the dire political situation is beginning to affect the lives of Israeli citizens, saying that, "I'm in a state of emergency against what is happening in the state. My mother-in-law was in a hospital, and I went out to see the state of the hospital. Nothing in this state is being taken care of, that's the big problem that needs to be addressed.
"I didn't form a government with someone who has three indictments, nor was there a proposal on the table," he said regarding Netanyahu. "He didn't really want to make a deal – he wanted elections."
On the issue of responsibility for a third election within a year, and particularly the fact that Netanyahu has blamed him for the inability to form a government between his party and Likud, Lapid said that "it's no coincidence that no believes him. Everyone understands that he led us to a third election because it allows him to extend the [legal procedure] and [potentially gain] immunity [from prosecution]. Netanyahu is busy with his legal matters; it's basically understood that a person who faces the danger of prison will only be busy with that. Israel, as a state, is not being taken care of."
After being asked about a compromise deal with Likud, including a proposal that would see Netanyahu step down after six months, Lapid noted that "there was no such proposal; there was no presidential outline. Just ask the president, and he'll explain to you that what Netanyahu did was to set a series of absurd terms: 'I'm first in a rotation, I'm coming with a block at 55, I'm asking for immunity.' He put them on the table, saying it was the president's outline.
“We worked with clear knowledge that there was no one to work with. Until the last moment, we were trying to form a unity government led by Blue and White – and we wanted to create a unity government – but there was no one to talk to: Netanyahu wanted elections.
"It's not technical, it's values," Lapid said. "We said we would not sit under a prime minister with serious indictments because it is criminal. The charges are not about anything [personal] in the past. We assured the public that we will not sit under him, and yet we said we are ready for him to be second in the rotation deal in order to allow him to conduct his legal affairs."
Lapid added that "Netanyahu was once a reasonable prime minister – he is no longer."
With regards to a third election, Lapid noted that it was not the intention of the party, and that they put in their best efforts to avoid it. He noted further that “it's bad for the state, the health system, the traffic jams. The man didn't want a deal for a minute, it was big-time fraud. He wanted an election, a prime minister with a bloc of 55 wants an election."
On the question of Avigdor Liberman’s responsibility for the current state of affairs, Lapid said that, "I'm not giving scores to other party leaders. We were hoping to form a government with him, but it didn't help."
"Everyone is disappointed with the situation, nobody wanted to get to this point. Liberman knows how to talk to the media; I don't talk like that. We wanted to establish a unity government with the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu; we were ready to go far [with them]. But it didn't happen because Netanyahu wanted elections."
Regarding the prospect of a narrow center-left government with the involvement of the Israeli Arab Joint List, Lapid contended that "[we] will not form a government with the Balad Party [in the Joint List faction] because they disapprove of the Zionist idea, the idea of the state.
"Netanyahu has always said that we are trying to form a government with the [Israeli] Arabs, but we didn't do it. I do not want to disqualify 20% of the Israeli population; the way Netanyahu is talking about this figure is obscene… it is a real incitement."
"We will not form a government with the [Israeli] Arabs until the Joint List separates itself from people who reject the idea of a Jewish state. You cannot be an Israeli patriot and sit with people who identify with the worst of our enemies."
The interviewer also asked Lapid his view on the right-religious bloc in general, to which he said that, “this is a block of ultra-Orthodox and extreme right-wing individuals that tried to include [Kahanist/ultra nationalist] Otzma Yehudit heads Bentzi Gopstein and Itamar Ben-Gvir, [members of] a group that the classical Israeli Right would never approach."
The interview comes amid the recent announcement that Israel will return to the polls in March 2020, following Blue and White and Likud's inability to form either a unity government, or a narrow center-left or religious-right government.