Two Knesset members from the ruling Likud Party said that opposition leader Yair Lapid was “digging his political grave” after calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation.
Boaz Bismuth and Hanoch Milwidsky spoke with JNS in the lobby of their hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. The prior day, they attended the “March for Israel” rally, which organizers say drew nearly 300,000 attendees to the National Mall on Nov. 14.
The Israeli politicians said that it’s not the time for political maneuvering as Israel’s war against Hamas remains ongoing.
“We’ll have time afterwards. We’re gonna win this war. The war will take 100 days, one year, six months—the rest of the time we’ll live peacefully with terrorists dead, not controlling territory,” Bismuth said.
“Then we’ll have a lot of time to ask the good questions,” he said, “because what happened was a catastrophe, a huge failure.”
Lapid refused to join the national unity government led by Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, minister-without-portfolio in the War Cabinet, after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. For the first time on Wednesday, Lapid called for Netanyahu to step down and for a “reconstruction” government to form with a new Likud leader. He also said he opposed a new round of elections for now.
Milwidsky told JNS that Lapid was tacking to the left in response to Gantz’s rising popularity.
“He’s very disturbed from the rise of his competitor, Gantz, in the polls,” Milwidsky said.
Lapid was “basically making himself different” from Gantz “by breaking strong to the left,” Milwidsky said. “Now he’s decided that he’s going to not only attack the prime minister, like he has been doing from day one, but also saying that he wants to overthrow him during the war. This is a disgraceful remark. It’s not going to be one of the things he will be proud of when he talks to his kids about his political career.”
“I think that whoever is dealing with politics these days is digging his political grave,” Milwidsky added.
‘Keep us out of domestic affairs’
Bismuth and Milwidsky were in Washington as part of the first Israeli Knesset delegation to the United States since Oct. 7. The delegation was initially intended to include members of the Yesh Atid Party; however, the latter decided not to attend, according to Bismuth and Milwidsky. Nir Barkat, the Israeli minister of economy and industry and former Jerusalem mayor, was also briefly in Washington.
Following their meetings on Capitol Hill and with the Biden administration, including in the White House, Bismuth and Milwidsky were confident that U.S. support for Israel would not become a partisan issue. A U.S. aid package for Israel is currently stalled in Congress over how the aid would be paid for and whether it should be tied to assistance for Ukraine as well.
“Representatives of both parties made very strict commitments that they won’t let that argument affect the actual aid coming to Israel,” Milwidsky said. “We strongly believe that that will be the case, and we urge everybody to keep us out of internal domestic American affairs.”
Despite the historic turnout for Tuesday’s “March for Israel,” a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday said that 68% of Americans support a ceasefire and Israeli negotiations with Hamas. Bismuth doesn’t think that the poll reflects Americans’ actual attitudes towards the conflict.
“In polls, the most important thing is the question,” he said. “If you ask Americans, good Americans, what they think—are they for the return of the hostages? I would guess 99.9%, and the .1% were asleep or drunk, would say that they are for.”
Given overall U.S. support for Israel, Bismuth remained untroubled by the original four Democratic members of the so-called “Squad” of left-wing progressives, who have been among Israel’s most vocal opponents in Congress.
“‘The Squad’ is four. Four in 300 million?” he said. “I can live with that.”