‘To Vote for Ben Gvir is to Vote Against IDF Soldiers,’ PM Lapid Warns Ahead of Upcoming Israeli Elections
Less than 48 hours before Israelis will go to the polls for the fifth time in less than four years, Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned about the danger of voting for the leader of far-right Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir.
“I would prefer him not be part of the political system because he is dangerous to IDF soldiers,” Lapid said Sunday in an interview with Israeli news site Walla. “To vote for Ben Gvir is to vote against the IDF.”
As an ardent Kahane supporter, Ben Gvir was not allowed to serve in the IDF and in the past he has been charged numerous times for incitement to violence or hate speech. Over the past year, the far-right lawmaker has been rising in popularity advocating for the Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank and the overhaul of country’s judicial system.
Earlier this month, during clashes between Jewish rioters and Arabs in the predominantly Arab Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of east Jerusalem, Ben Gvir pulled out his handgun, criticizing the Israeli police for not shooting stone-throwing Arabs.
“The problem with Ben Gvir is that people do not know who he is and what he represents and do not understand what a risk he represents to the security system and the IDF soldiers,” Lapid told Walla asking if a recent attack on Israeli paratroopers “had happened by chance?”
“It is the product of lawbreakers whom the political system in some ways backs up,” he said.
In an incident this month Jewish settlers pepper sprayed an IDF paratrooper battalion commander and another three soldiers as they were trying to disperse violent riots which broke out around Huwara near the West Bank town of Nablus.
On Nov. 1, Israeli voters will be able to cast their ballots to elect Israel’s 25th Knesset. The last Israeli television network polls conducted at the end of last week predicted Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc winning 60 of the Israeli parliament’s 120 seats in Tuesday’s vote.
Ben Gvir has allied with opposition leader Netanyahu, who seeks a return to power in the prime minister’s office and has brought in far-right politician Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism and the anti-LGBT Noam Party into his bloc. The final polls before the election suggest that the Religious Zionism alliance is set to become the third-largest alliance in the Knesset with 15 seats and take a decisive force of kingmaker in the formation of a coalition government.
If the right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu scores a majority of 61 seats in the upcoming election, Ben Gvir announced Sunday that he will demand to be appointed public security minister with authority over the police, during coalition negotiations.
Meanwhile, Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party rejected outright any possibility of forming a unity government with Netanyahu after the elections.
“I can’t sit down with a man with three serious criminal indictments,” Lapid told Walla. “I think I don’t need the burden of proof on this issue, I’ve already been offered the whole world and I didn’t sit down with him.”