In first speech as Prime Minister, Yair Lapid vowed not to back down against Tehran’s threats to Mideast security.
By David Hellerman, World Israel News
In his first address to Israel as Prime Minister, Yair Lapid thanked Naftali Bennett for an orderly transition of power and put Iran on notice.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu called Lapid on Friday, wishing him a peaceful term with “4 months of security quiet” and offered to continue receiving security updates through military secretary Avi Gil.
Lapid addressed the country on Saturday night.
“I want to start by thanking the 13th Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Naftali Bennett. For your decency, for your friendship and for leading the government this past year to economic and security achievements not seen here for years,” Lapid said.
Lapid added “a special thank you for allowing the citizens of Israel to see this week an orderly transition between people who keep agreements and believe in one another,” a poke at Netanyahu who reneged on a similar rotational agreement with Benny Gantz in 2020.
“We believe that Israel must be a liberal democracy in which every citizen has the right to change the government and set the course of their life. Nobody can be denied their fundamental rights: respect, liberty, freedom of employment, and the right to personal security,” Lapid continued.
“We believe that Israel is a Jewish state. Its character is Jewish. Its identity is Jewish. Its relations with its non-Jewish citizens are also Jewish. The book of Leviticus says, ‘But the stranger who dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.’”
Lapid then turned to security issues.
“We believe that so long as Israel’s security needs are met, Israel is a country that seeks peace. Israel stretches out its hand to all the peoples of the Middle East, including the Palestinians, and says: the time has come for you to recognize that we’ll never move from here, let’s learn to live together,” the Prime Minister said.
“We believe there is a great blessing in the Abraham Accords, a great blessing in the security and economic momentum created at the Negev Summit with the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and Morocco and that there will be a great blessing in the agreements yet to come.”
On Iran, Lapid vowed not to back down against Tehran’s threats to Mideast security.
“We’ll do whatever we must to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability, or entrenching itself on our borders,” adding, “I say to everyone seeking our demise, from Gaza to Tehran, from the shores of Lebanon to Syria: don’t test us. Israel knows how to use its strength against every threat, against every enemy.”
The bulk of Lapid’s remarks, however, were an appeal for Israeli unity and to lower social polarization.
“The State of Israel is bigger than all of us. More important than any of us. It was here before us, and will be here long after us. It doesn’t belong only to us. It belongs to those who dreamed of it for thousands of years in the Diaspora, and also to those yet to be born, to future generations,” Lapid said.
Israelis will always have disagreements, but “the question is how we manage them, and how we make sure they don’t manage us,” he added.
“In Israel, extremism doesn’t come from the streets to politics. It’s the opposite. It flows like lava from politics to the streets. The political sphere has become more and more extreme, violent and vicious, and it’s dragging Israeli society along with it. This we must stop. This is our challenge,” he said.
Israeli elections are scheduled for November 1. Lapid will serve as caretaker prime minister until a new government is sworn in.