With less than two days left to Election Day, Yesh Atid head and opposition leader Yair Lapid said Sunday that he was willing to do everything to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even it meant forgoing the opportunity to become premier himself.
"What is important now is to replace Netanyahu, and we have never been as close to it as we are now," he said. "We can form a government that is based on righteous values."
Speaking a day after Netanyahu declined a one-on-one debate, saying he would only do so if Lapid declared he was seeking to become prime minister, the Yesh Atid leader said this was merely an excuse on the part of the incumbent.
"Netanyahu had the opportunity to make this a head-to-head match. What we really have here is one government against another," said Lapid.
"He is scared of a debate and he decided to run away. Netanyahu is not going to tell me what to say. Does he want to debate me only if he can tell me what to say? Nobody tells me what to say, especially him," Lapid said.
"He's unable to debate me when I ask him why we have more than 6,000 COVID deaths, while Cyprus has only 248. How would he explain why in the middle of an ongoing crisis, he went to Knesset Finance Committee to get a tax refund or that the only government he has is an anti-democratic dark government?"
Lapid also accused the prime minister of secretly planning to form a coalition with extremists after the elections.
"Netanyahu has one goal: To hide from the public the only government that he can form," he said.
This supposedly 'fully right-wing' government is not right-wing, half of the parties are not even Zionist. It is a government of darkness, there is no other way to put it, and he is trying to hide it."
Netanyahu said he would form a coalition made up of his own Likud, the two ultra-Orthodox parties and the Religious Zionist party which includes far-right Itamar Ben-Gvir and the Noam movement that has openly expressed homophobic positions.
"There is the Netanyahu bloc and the 'Change' bloc. In the 'Change' bloc we are fighting for the 61 seats" needed to form a government," Lapid added.
"Netanyahu's whole campaign was to hide this government: Smotrich, [Shas leader Aryeh] Deri, [United Torah co-head leader Yaakov] Litzman and Ben-Gvir. A bloated, racist, homophobic and extortionary government that will take working people's money and give it to those who do not work - all of this boils down to the 61 seats."
Lapid was referring to Haredi yeshiva students who do not join the work force or serve in the IDF but receive government funding while they study Torah fulltime.
Lapid emphasized that there is no possible eventuality in which he would join a Netanyahu-led government, adding that if he had wanted to do so, he could have joined the outgoing government.
"He [Netanyahu] should go and deal with his corruption trial and leave us be. We need change and hope, and we will not get either under Netanyahu," he said.
Regarding his statement that he will be willing to work with the predominantly-Arab Joint List to form a government, Lapid said that this was an option he would consider in order to reach the 61 Knesset seats he needs to form a government.
Lapid also said he would not rule out the prospect of inviting the ultra-Orthodox parties into a coalition.
"However," he added, "I still say we need civil marriages and that every educational facility must teach basic math and English. We need a revised mandatory national service law and fair allocation of budgets for all Israeli citizens."
Lapid also said that the next Israeli government would have to repair the relations with the U.S. Democratic Party that he claims Netanyahu has damaged with his previous support for Republican candidates and his close ties to Donald Trump.
"There is outright and justified anger among the Democrats towards Netanyahu," he said.
"He identified himself completely with a specific wing of the Republican Party, and as I said in the Knesset this would end badly. Today we have a Democrat president, Senate and Congress. I want Israel to be an accepted country globally again." Lapid said.
First published: 13:28 , 03.21.21