Yair Lapid Tells ultra-Orthodox Lawmakers: You Don't Own Israel

On first day of Knesset summer session, finance minister tells Haredi MKs their 'democratic voices' are valued from the opposition, but insists that 'parents cannot rely on state to provide for their children.'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Finance Minister Yair Lapid unleashed a harsh tirade against ultra-Orthodox Knesset members during a speech at Monday's opening meeting of parliament's summer session, saying that they do not have exclusive rights over Israel or the Israeli government.

In his first Knesset speech since becoming finance minister, Lapid did nothing to end the bad blood between him and the ultra-Orthodox factions - the result, in part, of him forming a bloc against them joining Israel's governing coalition after elections in January.

"There is such a thing as this in democracy: a government without the ultra-Orthodox. Israel is not listed in your name in the Land Registry and the Israeli government is not listed in your name in the land registry," the Yesh Atid party chairman told ultra-Orthodox Knesset members who were present. "We believe in the importance of your democratic voice from the opposition."

He went on to tell MKs that parents should be financially responsible for their children, and not rely on state support.

"No child in the State of Israel should go hungry. The body that is responsible for supporting children is called their parents. When you bring a child into this world, you are the first who is responsible for them. To bring a child into this world is a heavy responsibility," Lapid said, adding that no one can assume anyone else will financially support them in having a family.

Referring to their role in Israel's last governing coalition, Lapid told the Haredi MKs, "I am the person who has to solve the deficit that you created," adding that they were not "the cheapest" partners for the government.

Addressing MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism), Lapid said he is no longer head of the Knesset Finance Committee because "we had enough" of taking orders from "your honor."

An argument broke out between Lapid and the MKs in the Knesset ensued. MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) said, "Money should not be taken away from children." MK Meirav Michaeli (Labor), meanwhile, asked, "Those who don't have money can't have children?"

Other MKs responded with references to Lapid's Facebook post last month, in which he used "Mrs Riki Cohen" and "the Cohen family" as an example of a middle-class Israeli couple struggling to make ends meet on a combined average wage of NIS 20,000 a month - and faced criticism for citing figures higher than the actual national average.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ) called out, "Talk about Mrs Cohen or about the economy. Stop talking about the ultra-Orthodox, I'm a lawmaker."

Other MKs from Haredi factions ridiculed Lapid's election campaign slogan, asking, "Where is your money?" and also "Where is Riki (Cohen), Mr. Lapid?"

Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Aryeh Deri (Shas) at the opening meeting of parliament's summer session, April 22, 2013. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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