Netanyahu and Lapid are at loggerheads over relations with Russia

On Tuesday afternoon, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the prime minister and defense minister, his political rivals, for mishandling relations with Moscow, which is about to ban the Jewish Agency from Russia. .

In a press conference in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said that for many years “we have had a measured, balanced and responsible relationship” with Russia, but now “a dangerous crisis” is swelling and that Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Secretary Benny Gantz “mumbled” and “endangered national security.”

“We can and must get out of this crisis,” he said. “I am afraid that in the last few weeks we have witnessed the destruction of what we have patiently built over the years. »

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He pointed to “a mixture of amateurism, irresponsibility and arrogance”, calling on Lapid and Gantz to “stop the babble” on the subject.

Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, and Lapid quickly condemned the attack, in his capacity as foreign minister, later accusing Russia of “war crimes”.

Last week, Moscow made clear its intention to ban the activities of the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental organization responsible for encouraging and facilitating Jewish immigration to Israel, on its territory.

Netanyahu, who hopes to regain his post as Prime Minister after the November 1 election, for his part, has not mentioned Ukraine at all since the start of the invasion. Before being removed from office in June, the former Prime Minister made sure to build good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the official response to Netanyahu’s statements, a spokesman for Lapid said that “there is no crisis”, a position that was expressed by Putin’s personal spokesman on Tuesday.

The reasons for Moscow’s pressure on the Jewish Agency have not been confirmed, but Lapid’s political opponents believe they have something to do with the prime minister’s comments condemning the Russian invasion.

Israel’s interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a joint press conference with US President Joe Biden, in Jerusalem on July 14, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP)

“If Netanyahu bothered to consult with Prime Minister Lapid to educate himself on security and diplomatic matters, Netanyahu would know exactly what is going on,” Lapid’s spokesman continued, adding that “for reasons of security, of the State of Israel and of Russia. The Jewish community, this issue must be dealt with wisely, through government channels, and not in press conferences”.

In recent months, Netanyahu has not exercised his right to attend the prime minister’s security briefings, allowing him in his role as opposition leader.

Gantz, in response to Netanyahu, quickly wrote on Twitter that “the government of Israel conducts itself with responsibility and determination to protect the interests of the State of Israel and the Jewish people”, before adding that “the last person qualified to talk about the frivolous contention on security issues is Netanyahu.

The record holder for the number of years serving as Prime Minister of Israel, Netanyahu continued to serve from 2009 to 2021, and, more briefly, between 1996 and 1999. In recent years year, he personally invested in warming relations with Putin, including building. security cooperation to enable Israeli air strikes in Syria, where Russia has a military presence.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, greet each other in the presence of Iranian President Ebrahim Raissi, right, during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022. (Credit: Office of Iran’s Supreme Leader via AP)

Under the leadership of Lapid and ex-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Israel is eager to resume diplomatic relations with Ukraine and Russia after the outbreak of hostilities. The Bennett-Lapid government has come under Western criticism for being too neutral, and Israel took two months to respond to Ukrainian requests for defense aid, in a last-ditch effort not to alienate Russia.

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