In a surprise speech at the Knesset, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the opposition bill seeking to prevent a candidate under indictment from forming a government, calling the bill an "Iranian law."
The bill, brought forward by Yesh Atid, the main opposition party, is aimed at preventing Netanyahu from running for office in the next election. Netanyahu currently stands trial for suspected bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
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The bill fell with 37 votes in favor and 53 against. The remaining 30 lawmakers did not present for the vote.
The bill was not expected to pass, yet held great political significance. While Defense Minister Benny Gantz's party decided not to attend the vote, Netanyahu personally arrived at the Knesset to speak against the bill.
Netanyahu accused the opposition of seeking to undermine democracy. “Precisely here, in the establishment that was supposed to represent Israeli democracy, we are now witnessing another revolting chapter in an endless saga initiated by those who speak about the superiority of democracy but they are wielding the sword to decapitate democracy,” Netanyahu said.
Speaking at length as members of the opposition shouted from the back benches, Netanyahu said: “These personal bills are a total distortion. Where such bills are passed? To deliberately foil a candidacy…only in the most benighted regimes like Iran and North Korea. In Iran, every time someone endangers the ayatollah regime, he is systematically removed.”
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Netanyahu continued, "a thousand masks couldn't cover up your dictatorship. You and your partner Ayman Odeh won't succeed in beating us in the polls, so you're organizing left wing protests with one hand and bringing an Iranian law to the Knesset with the other." Netanyahu added, "Your condescension toward right-wing voters is unforgivable. Everything is fake with you. You know very little about almost nothing."
Responding to Netanyahu, Lapid said: “We can see the beads of sweat on your forehead from here. You are scared to end up in jail and it shows.” The two politicians evoked one another's fathers, as the barbs became increasingly personal. "Your father told you not to touch the money. If you had listened to him, you wouldn't have stood trial for three corruption charges," Lapid said.
“For those who haven't understood, we are headed to election," Lapid said. "We know Netanyahu when he decides to launch an election campaign. He’s campaigning now, he wants an election," Lapid said.
“But Netanyahu doesn’t want to talk about the shuttering of 30,000 businesses because of his mismanagement of the coronavirus. Israel’s has the highest deficit in the Western World. You utterly failed in handling the coronavirus crisis,” Lapid told Netanyahu.
“Those who fail in managing a global crisis can’t be at the helm of a government,” Lapid said.