With Election Nearing, Netanyahu Uses Jewish Agency Crisis to Attack 'Amateur' Lapid

'When we are back in power, we'll fix everything that is being broken right now,' opposition leader Netanyahu charges. Gantz: 'Unnecessary blabber'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to deliver a statement at his party's Tel Aviv headquarters, on Tuesday.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to deliver a statement at his party's Tel Aviv headquarters, on Tuesday.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Yair Lapid on Tuesday, claiming the current prime minister's response to Russia's plan to shut down the Jewish Agency's operations there "could damage the security of Israel."

While both countries deny a diplomatic crisis, Moscow and Jerusalem appear to be on the brink of it after the Russian Justice Ministry asked a local court to order the closure of the Jewish Agency for Israel, citing violations of Russian law.

In a statement delivered at his Likud party's Tel Aviv headquarters, Netanyahu said: "We're in the middle of a dangerous crisis with Russia," adding that he will "fix the damage" if reelected on November 1.

Lapid, Gantz and Netanyahu at the Knesset, last year.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

"For years we had a reasonable, balanced and responsible relationship" with Russia, Netanyahu argued. "We took care of Israeli interests, and those of our citizens," he said, attacking Prime Minister Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz – two of his main political rivals – for their "amateurism."

"When we are back in power, we'll fix everything that is being broken right now," Netanyahu continued. "In the meantime, I have one thing to ask Lapid and Gantz, and that's to stop talking publicly about the matter."

Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Moscow in 2016.Credit: Maxim Shipenkov /AP

Lapid's office responded with a statement stressing that the matter "was being handled by the government of Israel."

"For the sake of the security of Israeli citizens and Russian Jews, this matter should be dealt with discretely and through governmental channels," the statement said.

Defense Minister Gantz issued took to Twitter to say that "the Israeli government conducts itself with responsibility and determination in order to safeguard the interests of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. The last person who can talk about unnecessary blabber on security issues is Netanyahu."

In November, Israeli voters will return to the polls for the fifth time in less than four years. Most public opinion polls show that Netanyahu's Likud party will remain the largest in the Knesset, with Lapid's Yesh Atid party coming in second – but no major bloc has a clear path to a parliamentary majority.

Earlier this month, Gantz's Kahol Lavan party joined forces with New Hope, and the new party is projected to be the third largest in the Knesset. In practice, this means that all three leaders will try to pry votes away from the other two.

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