Lapid Vows to Act Against Threats From Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran

In his first cabinet meeting as Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid says 'Iranians, Hamas and Hezbollah are not waiting. We must act against them in all fronts'

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Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks as he chairs his first cabinet meeting, days after lawmakers dissolved parliament, in Jerusalem on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks as he chairs his first cabinet meeting, days after lawmakers dissolved parliament, in Jerusalem on Sunday.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen / Reuters

Yair Lapid, who took office as Israel's prime minister last week, said Israel "must act" against threats from Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah in his first cabinet meeting in the role on Sunday.

Lapid said in the meeting, "The Iranians, Hamas and Hezbollah are not waiting. We must act against them in all fronts, at any given moment, and that is exactly what we will do."

He noted that Israeli military intercepted three unarmed Hezbollah drones on Saturday that "attempted to damage Israeli infrastructure" in the waters encompassing the country's exclusive economic zone, adding that the Lebanese militant group "is continuing down the path of terror, harming Lebanon's ability to reach an agreement on the maritime border."

"Israel will continue to defend itself, its citizens and its property," Lapid said.

During his first speech as prime minister on Saturday, Lapid had pointed to Iran as Israel's top threat, emphasizing that the country will do "everything necessary" to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons or entrenching itself on Israel's borders.

Following the Sunday cabinet meeting, Lapid is set for a further series of talks and ceremonies to start his stint as premier, including sit-downs with Joe Biden during the U.S. President's Israel visit in two weeks and with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris Tuesday; one-on-one meetings with Israeli ministers throughout the coming week; and a discussion on the issue of MIAs at the Israeli military's headquarters in central Tel Aviv Friday.

Lapid met with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and a number of Health Ministry professionals to discuss the COVID pandemic later on Sunday. Israel is currently experiencing its "sixth wave" of the virus as the highly infectious new omicron variant is sweeping the country, according to Israel's Health Ministry, although no new restrictions are being weighed at this stage.

As Israel hits the height of tourist season and infections increase, "in order for us to continue as normal, I call on the public to act responsibly," he said. "We recommend, particularly for at-risk populations, wearing a mask in enclosed spaces.

To further solidify his image as the premier, Lapid will be moving into the compound of the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem, where he'll live in an alternative apartment until renovations to the residence itself are completed.

Lapid replaced coalition partner Naftali Bennett to become Israel's 14th prime minister last week after lawmakers voted to dissolve the Knesset, assuming the position of caretaker premier until a new government is sworn in after the November 1 early election.

“In the coming months our goal, of this whole table, is to run the government as if there is no election campaign. The citizens of Israel deserve a functioning government at any given moment,” Lapid said.

He'll also continue to hold his portfolio as foreign minister, which has been his role over the past year. The dissolution followed his and Bennett's move last month to disband the Knesset amid infighting that made their ruling coalition no longer tenable.

Sunday at midnight is the cutoff point for factions in the dissolved Knesset to split and take party funding with them. After that point, lawmakers wishing to compete for a place on the roster of a different party will not be able to take the funding the state allocates to each lawmaker – 1.6 million shekels (about $453,000). Anyone who wants to leave their faction has to enlist one third of the faction, or else obtain the list's approval to split off.

A year ago, Bennett and Lapid ended former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year reign by forming a rare alliance of nationalists, liberals and Arab parties, which — while ultimately faltering — lasted longer than many had expected. The diverse coalition, of which Lapid was the architect, was bonded largely by shared antipathy toward Netanyahu.

The forthcoming election campaign has already become dominated by the prospect of a possible comeback by Netanyahu, who hopes to win a sixth term in office despite being on trial for corruption on charges he denies. Surveys have shown his right-wing Likud party leading the polls, but still short of a governing majority despite support of allied religious and nationalist parties.

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