Lapid Responds to Netanyahu: You Are Out of Touch

In harsh speech one day after he was fired, the outgoing finance minister accuses the PM of damaging 'the strategic alliance between Israel and the U.S.'

A day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Yair Lapid as finance minister, the Yesh Atid chairman delivered a harshly critical speech Wednesday accusing Netanyahu of being out of touch with the Israeli public.

Netanyahu is the only one interested in going to early elections, said Lapid, adding that the move could harm the Israeli economy.

"You stood here yesterday, in front of a whole nation, and announced that you are dragging Israel to superfluous elections that no one else wants," Lapid said at a press conference in Tel Aviv. "Why? Because you are out of touch. You have no idea what this does to the citizens of Israel."

Netanyahu fired Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni from the cabinet Tuesday, and on Wednesday the Knesset voted to dissolve parliament, in the first of three required votes on the bill. Knesset faction heads also decided that elections for the 20th Knesset would be held March 17, though the decision is not final.

Alluding to continued tension between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration, Lapid accused Netanyahu of harming the Israel-U.S. relationship.

AP

"You damaged the strategic alliance between Israel and the U.S.," he said. "Senators call me to find out about your disparaging treatment of our best friend in the world. Go explain to them that you're so disconnected that you think America is stuck in the '80s. At one point you understood America, but America has changed."

Netanyahu served in the Israeli Embassy in Washington from 1982-1984 and as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations from 1984-1988.

Within the Middle East, Netanyahu fled from the peace process and "missed the opportunity to disarm Gaza and bring quiet to the residents of the south," Lapid said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Netanyahu welcomed the Knesset's decision to dissolve parliament and go to early elections.

Referring to an off-duty guard from the Prime Minister's Office who halted Wednesday's stabbing attack at a supermarket, Netanyahu said: "This is our job – to fight terror with the same determination, the same decisiveness, the same determination." He said that's one of the reasons Israel needs "a strong and stable government." 

Former Communication Minister Moshe Kahlon, who is expected to run in the coming elections in a new party, explained on Wednesday why he had left the Likud. He said the Likud was "good" and "strong," but added that he had realized that there is a need for a new political entity "with its own agenda and its own people – honest, professionals, who are not afraid, who came to serve the public and not those in power."