A contentious video posted by Blue and White co-chairman Yair Lapid on Twitter alleging that the right-wing coalition parties are only interested in money generated a firestorm of protest on Monday, including rebukes from his fellow leader Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and others.
Netanyahu and United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni described the video as antisemitic, while Gantz and senior Blue and White leader Moshe Yaalon were also critical of their party comrade.
Lapid posted the video Sunday evening which showed a satirical WhatsApp conversation between Netanyahu, Likud MK David Bitan and leaders of the religious coalition parties such as Betzalel Smotrich of United Right, Shas leader Aryeh Deri and United Torah Judaism leader Yaakov Litzman.
Bitan, one of Netanyahu’s allies, is seen telling the cabinet members that they need to sign a document pledging to “support Binyamin Netanyahu forever” and “support his legal immunity forever regardless of what he is charged with.”
The video was referencing a document which Bitan had 40 of the Likud’s top Knesset candidates sign pledging allegiance to Netanyahu as the party’s only candidate to form the next government.
In the video, Smotrich starts demanding more money in return for signing the document, using an emoticon with dollar signs over its eyes and mouth.
Deri demands “a trillion shekels” for yeshiva budgets, and Litzman says “I want all the money in Israel,” which Netanyahu reluctantly agrees to after Litzman said threateningly that he could hear police sirens coming.
“The incitement by candidate for prime minister Yair Lapid, drafted in an antisemitic tone, proves once again why Yair Lapid must not be prime minister,” Netanyahu tweeted in response.
“Only a large Likud will prevent a dangerous and irresponsible left-wing government led by Yair Lapid and Gantz”
Gantz did not mention the video or Lapid directly, but stated that his party needed a “different style” then that of Netanyahu.
“The strength of Israeli society is rooted in the unity of all its parts, secular and religious alike, Jews and non-Jews, left and right,” Gantz tweeted.
Gantz has been anxious for Lapid and Yesh Atid to tone down its rhetoric against the religious and ultra-Orthodox parties, seeing them as a critical key for forming a new government.
Yaalon also distanced himself from the comment, saying “This is not my style or [party head] Benny Gantz’s style. We are not for a hateful discussion, not between Jews and Arabs, Right and Left, Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, religious, not religious, haredim [ultra-Orthodox].”
But he subsequently rebuked Netanyahu for his comments against Lapid, calling him the “wizard of incitement and division,” and charged that “it is you who gets political sustenance from schism, incitement and hatred, and now your are jumping in against Lapid? You are preaching? Do you not have a drop of shame.”
Gafni said straight-forwardly that “the video is antisemitic,” that he “shudders to think that he could be the prime minister in rotation, and that “Gantz should throw him out of the party or get rid of him.”
Litzman accused Lapid of a “hate and incitement campaign” which was hitting “a new record high of antisemitism.”
He continued, “This has crossed a redline reminiscent of dark times when Jews were presented as greedy and accused of taking over public funds.”