Foreign Minister Yair Lapid outdid himself on Monday evening. Yes, the “alternate” premier slated to replace Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the helm in September 2023, took the opportunity of a special parliamentary session commemorating the 26th anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to insult the national camp.
“There is a [direct] line between Rabin’s murder and the past year,” he said. “Both are part of Israel’s great struggle, not between Right and Left, but between those who believe in democracy and those who are trying to destroy it.”
Rabin, he continued, “wasn’t murdered by the Right – the true right wing is democratic – but by anyone who isn’t willing to accept Israeli democracy. Anyone who tells himself that the majority doesn’t rule isn’t really in the national camp; he’s a dangerous, nationalist extremist. Instead of loving the country, he hates anyone who doesn’t think the way he does.”
He went on to claim that the “ideological heirs” of Yigal Amir – Rabin’s assassin, who is justifiably in prison for life – “are sitting in the Knesset today, and if not for the miracle of the change government, they’d be sitting in the government.”
Here, he was forced to pause by angry shouts from the plenum.
“Do you mean the Joint [Arab] List?” heckled Religious Zionist Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich, referring to the members of Knesset who openly oppose the Jewish state.
“Aren’t you ashamed?” added Smotrich, who knew full well that Lapid had been pointing a finger at him and his political allies. When he and a few other MKs from Shas and Likud exited the premises, Lapid resumed his inexcusable tirade.
“The coalition that we formed isn’t left-wing or right-wing,” he announced. “It’s a coalition of the majority of Israel’s citizens who decided to rescue Israeli democracy.”
He conveniently omitted the part about the actual way in which the current government was formed: through a legal manipulation of the system by Bennett, who pulled an about-face on his voters to cobble together a union of factions whose only common denominator was the desire to oust Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history.
HE THEN compared the “incitement of today” to that of the period leading up to the Rabin assassination, with “the same people saying the same things, [and] whoever speaks and acts that way doesn’t believe in democracy.”
The analogy was both obvious and purposeful. As soon as Rabin was pronounced dead at the hands of “right-wing extremist” Amir, the land-for-peace camp held then-opposition leader Netanyahu accountable.
The la-la-land Left, in ecstasy over the Oslo Accords that the Rabin-led government signed with arch-Palestinian terrorist Yasser Arafat, accused Netanyahu of having fomented the hostile atmosphere that led Amir to commit his dastardly act – during a peace rally in Tel Aviv.
That the accords would prove to be the disaster of which Netanyahu had warned – mass Jewish casualties by Israel’s Palestinian “peace partners” – seemed at the time to be drowned out by national shock, along with the repeated demand that the Right engage in “soul-searching” for its role in the tragedy. Though the mantra was loud and clear, and has been used by the Left for the past two and a half decades, Netanyahu’s Likud nevertheless won the election that took place in 1996, mere months after Rabin’s death.
NONE OF the above made it into Lapid’s speech at the Knesset, of course. Forgetting the purpose of the event – to memorialize the slain premier – he proceeded, instead, to tout his motley coalition’s “victory.”
“The facts are that there were elections and we won,” he said. “We brought 61 [seats] to this hall and created a government. Those are the rules. That’s the way it works. It turned out that even the democrats know how to take a stand. They know how to fight for their positions and to win.”
This, he averred peculiarly, “is Rabin’s legacy. The legacy of the warrior… to defend what you believe in… to get down in the mud with your hands and feet. And there is mud; we’re surrounded by it.”
As mudslinger-in-chief, he ought to know. As the country’s top diplomat scheduled to become head honcho in less than two years, he could use a few history lessons, if not a better speech-writer.
“A true democrat doesn’t remain silent when others try to erase the rule of law… doesn’t remain silent in the face of violence,” he said. “Our tolerance cannot be taken advantage of to destroy democracy. Democracy needs to know how to defend itself.”
As if to further illustrate his cluelessness about the person he was supposed to be memorializing, and reveal his utter ignorance about the meaning of “democracy,” Lapid tried to give weight to his rant by quoting what Rabin said a few minutes before he was killed: “Violence is the erosion of the foundation of Israeli democracy. It must be condemned, rooted out, isolated.”
According to Lapid, “That’s what we did. Defended ourselves. [We are not in] charm school. We decided not to sit on the sidelines and write erudite articles about tolerance and liberalism while the forces of antidemocratic darkness take control of the country.”
This bit was particularly notable. Israeli peaceniks “sitting on the sidelines” are as hard to come by as “erudite articles about tolerance and liberalism.” Indeed, it’s far easier to be treated to their tired platitudes, such as Lapid’s following remark.
Rabin’s murder, he said, “was an assassination [attempt] on Israeli democracy. For the past few years, there has been an attempt to assassinate it by other means. We prevented this at the last minute, out of obligation, out of patriotism, out of the understanding that what happened must never reoccur.”
Finally, he concluded, “I want to tell the antidemocratic forces walking around among us [that] we’re here for a long time. We’re not going anywhere. We’re not afraid of all the shouting.”
LAPID MAY be correct about the longevity of the “anybody but Bibi” coalition, whose members have no interest in seeing it collapse. But he’s lying when he says that he and his partners aren’t scared.
According to a poll published last week by Channel 12, if elections were held today, a Netanyahu-led Likud would garner 34 mandates, with Lapid’s Yesh Atid winning 18 and the rest of the parties securing seats in the single-digits.
This is not to say that Bibi would be “back at Balfour Street,” since he’d still run into the problem he encountered after the last four rounds of Knesset elections: the parties in his ideological camp that refuse to sit with or under him, mostly for personal reasons. Still, the survey is significant, because it constitutes a reminder that, contrary to Lapid’s protestations, the majority of the Jewish state leans rightward.
In other words, though the current coalition was forged in accordance with the rules of Israel’s electoral system, it doesn’t reflect the public’s wishes at the ballot box. This is why many on the Right consider it “undemocratic,” while what they ought to be bemoaning is the mechanism behind it.
It’s Lapid and his ilk that should cease eulogizing Israeli democracy whenever they are criticized for their policies. They also must stop exploiting Rabin’s murder to assassinate the character of the country, and then boast about saving it from itself.