Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud Beytenu) had harsh words for Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) on Saturday night.
Speaking on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press”, Steinitz, who served as Finance Minister before Lapid, said that his successor misled the public and created unnecessary panic about the state of the Israeli economy.
Steinitz claimed that the deficit, which is expected to be released in January, will stand at about 3%, in contrast to Lapid’s earlier predictions.
"By doing this, he caused severe damage,” he charged. “No top official in the Treasury or in the Bank of Israel ever told Yair Lapid that there is a basis to have the deficit be higher than that.”
"His exaggerations about the deficit created public panic, he caused Israel’s credit rating to be downgraded and was forced to impose taxes on the public, some of which he will have to cancel because there was no basis for them,” added Steinitz.
"The conduct of the Minister of Finance reminds me of the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial - a lot of gimmicks, conduct which, it later turns out, has no connection with reality,” said Steinitz, mocking Lapid.
“If he has even a minimal degree of integrity and fairness - he must apologize to the government and to the public in Israel over his deception regarding the deficit,” he added.
Steinitz’s comments come in the wake of a series of spats between Lapid’s party and other members of the coalition, particularly the Likud and the Jewish Home.
Lapid and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have quarreled over the identity of the head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which has been without a chairman since Avigdor Liberman was reinstated as Foreign Minister.
Yesh Atid wants its MK Ofer Shelah to be appointed to head the committee, while Netanyahu prefers MK Tzahi Hanegbi of the Likud.
Last week, senior members of Likud were quoted as having said they were “fed up” with the behavior of Lapid and members of Yesh Atid. They were reportedly irritated by Lapid voting against the proposal to set up a public committee to discuss the possibility of purchasing a plane for the prime minister for flights abroad.
As this was not the first time that Yesh Atid’s ministers have tried to sabotage proposals, Likud officials said that if this continues, Netanyahu would consider parting ways with Yesh Atid in favor of the hareidi-religious parties.
Saturday’s interview was certainly not the first time that Steinitz attacked Lapid. Several months ago, Steinitz called Lapid “supercilious and arrogant,” after Lapid demanded his ejection from a Security-Diplomacy Cabinet discussion.