Opposition slams size of new government, says country deserves better

Opposition party leaders attack new government for oversized cabinet and accuse it of lack of direction.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Opposition members of the Knesset took turns Sunday bashing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government, which was presented in parliament for a vote of confidence.

Following the presentation of the government of national unity in speeches from Netanyahu and incoming Defense Minister Benny Gantz, opposition leaders took the podium to vent their frustration at the new government and its record setting 36-member cabinet.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid and Telem parties, which split from incoming Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, attacked the government for its bloated size when the coronavirus crisis had driven unemployment in Israel to record levels.

“Today, this building has lost the trust of the Israeli public. People hate politicians, they hate politics. They don’t believe politics represents [their] values,” Lapid said. “Politics takes their money and gives them nothing back. There is no connection between politics and the real lives of real people.”

Lapid blasted the government for adding cabinet ministers at public expense.

“Coronavirus is an excuse for a corrupt party at the expense of the taxpayer,” Lapid said. “The government being formed today is the largest and most wasteful in the history of the country.”

“There are fewer than 50 coronavirus patients on ventilators in Israel,” he said. “We have more ministers and deputy ministers than patients on life support. We could put a minister or deputy minister next to each bed and still have two left over.”

Lapid added, “Israelis deserve better.”

Outgoing Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said his party rejected recommendations to join the unity government, saying there was no point in being a “minister of nothing.”

“The purpose was to bring us into the government with no power and no compass,” Bennett told the house. “It is not a coincidence that the prime minister is not sitting here,” Bennett said, pointing to the empty seat as Netanyahu left the house after giving his opening speech.

“For the entire last decade that we were in [the government], we were the compass, the power and the backbone of the government. And when we weren’t there, the government was spineless,” said Bennett.

Bennett’s partner, former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, said “Netanyahu threw religious Zionism and the ideological right onto the roadside.”

Another former defense minister, Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beiteinu, lambasted Knesset members who accepted meaningless cabinet positions and said those agreements would best be sold on eBay.

“That’s the only thing you’ll profit from the head of our government,” Liberman said. “And you’ll find there are a lot of buyers looking to buy an original Bibi Netanyahu signature.”

He also tried to embarrass outgoing Education Minister Rafi Peretz, who jumped from Bennett’s party last week and accepted a demotion to Minister of Jerusalem Affairs in order to stay in the government.

Liberman noted that Peretz had broken a pact with another political party before the elections in April 2019 after he was promised the education portfolio by Netanyahu, receiving the job last June.

“My congratulations to Education Minister Rafi Peretz,” Liberman said sarcastically to Peretz, who sat in the Knesset wearing a surgical mask after serving less than a year as minister of education.

Despite the opposition complaints, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted his greetings, wishing the unity government well.

“Congratulations and Mazal Tov to PM Netanyahu, [Alternate Prime minister and Minister of Defense] Gantz , the State of Israel and the People of Israel on the formation of a new government,” Friedman tweeted. “The United States looks forward to working with you to enhance our already incredibly strong relationship and unbreakable bond.”