With surging COVID rates, 21% unemployment, Israeli opposition leader blasts Netanyahu, calls for new government
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

With surging COVID rates, 21% unemployment, Israeli opposition leader blasts Netanyahu, calls for new government

Tourists aren't coming back to Israel until at least 2021, MK Yair Lapid warns in part two of our conversation for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

Once allies, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (L) are now bitter political rivals. This photo was taken during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on October 7, 2014, when Lapid was Finance Minister in Netanyahu's government. (photo credit: REUTERS/Dan Balilty/Pool)
Once allies, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (L) are now bitter political rivals. This photo was taken during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on October 7, 2014, when Lapid was Finance Minister in Netanyahu's government. (photo credit: REUTERS/Dan Balilty/Pool)

JERUSALEM — During every interview I do these days with American radio talk show hosts to promote our new ALL ISRAEL NEWS website, I’m asked how Israel is doing with the coronavirus and when the country will reopen to Christian and other tourists.

The hosts are shocked when I tell them, with great sorrow, that Israel is currently one of the worst places in the world in terms of containing and crushing the COVID-19 crisis.

In an exclusive interview at the Knesset this week with Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition in the parliament, I posed the same questions to him: When will Israel reopen its borders to Jewish, Christian and Muslim pilgrims who have prayed and waited their whole lives to visit the Holy Land?

After uttering rare praise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “great move” to make a “fantastic” peace with the United Arab Emirates, Lapid’s tone shifted markedly.

“Okay, I’m giving you a warning signal – this is the end of the pleasant part of our conversation,” he said. “Now the unpleasant.”

Editor-in-chief Joel C. Rosenberg interviews Israeli leader of the opposition Yair Lapid in his Knesset office. (Photo credit: All Israel News)

Lapid said that tourists will only be able to come back to Israel “when we have a government that is doing a good job handling the virus and the economy. It is not going to happen with this government, under these circumstances, unfortunately.”

“Hopefully next year,” he added. “I don’t see Israel opening for tourism in the coming months because a tough, tough winter is ahead of us.”

Lapid blasted Netanyahu and the current government for failing to properly handle the virus or the economy, when other governments around the world are doing a far better job.

Here are excerpts from our interview:

YAIR LAPID: Israel usually is a unique case when you talk about foreign policy and security. We’re a small country in the Middle East. A Western country in the Middle East. On the coronavirus – on the COVID-19 – we’re not unique. It’s the same virus all over the world. It’s the same economy all over the world. So, what is the difference between countries who are doing a good job handling the virus – with lower death rates, with lower infection rates, with better economies – and countries who are doing terribly? There is only one difference. Government.

In New Zealand there is a functional government. In Finland, a 34-year-old female [prime minister running the] government is doing an unbelievable job. In Germany, [Chancellor Angela] Merkel is a very good job. And so on – Taiwan, South Korea. Governments are the difference.

Here we now have a government – a horrible, 36-ministers government, a bureaucratic monster – paralyzed because of internal politics, run by a prime minister with three criminal indictments who is preoccupied by his legal issues instead of dealing with the virus itself. And they did everything wrong, and they still do.

What we really need is a much smaller government, a much more coherent government, with coherent plans.

The answers for the COVID-19 crisis lie within scientists, experts, doctors, economists – the people who understand the reality and have an ability to act accordingly.

Instead, we have a prime minister and a substitute prime minister [Benny Gantz] – which is a unique Israeli invention that cannot work — which is a recipe for a paralyzed government and people who seem to be careless in so many ways.

So, if you ask me what this country needs – a different government, because the government is the problem.

NOTE: To read part one of our interview, in which Lapid gives rare credit to Netanyahu for making peace with the UAE, please click here.

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Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

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