Yair Lapid
Yair LapidOlivier Fitoussi/Flash 90

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid on Sunday reiterated his strong opposition to the proposal of National Unity Party chairman Benny Gantz to establish a joint team that would form a broad agreement with the coalition on the judicial reform.

"Netanyahu is trying to drag us into a discussion about legal reform as if it were an academic discussion where one person thinks one way and another thinks another way. What they are trying to do now is attempting to save Netanyahu from his trial and Aryeh Deri from his conviction," Lapid claimed in an interview with Channel 12 News.

"In the Knesset, people are talking to each other. Yariv Levin has been walking around with this [judicial reform] for 15 years and his entire party, certainly Netanyahu, told him: 'You are delusional.' Then Netanyahu's indictments came and suddenly they changed their minds," he continued.

After being shown a video clip of himself speaking against judicial activism in 2014, Lapid said that he still thinks the judicial system needs to be reformed, but "those who need to change it are not people with criminal charges or convicted criminals. We can have a discussion about legal reform. There is no system that cannot be corrected, including the judicial system. There is a lot to fix. By the way, a serious government would first start with the congestion in the courts and with the fact that if you sue your neighbor, it takes seven years [for the case to be resolved]. I'm not saying there is nothing to fix. Every system can be fixed. But it is not criminals and defendants who need to fix the legal system in the State of Israel."

Lapid responded to the criticism that was levelled at him over his absence from the demonstration against the government last week and said, "I was at many demonstrations in which I didn't speak. Last week, everyone still didn't understand where it was going. We talked to the organizations. They were a little worried that there would be a political takeover. We told them, ‘No, it's a civil protest.’ So I said ‘let's wait a week, we'll see’. I came this week, I'm glad I did. The Yesh Atidniks were there in droves, we came to support. Everyone understands that something terrible is happening and these things need to be said."

When asked if he was wrong to use the slogan "anyone but Bibi" and not join the government, the leader of the opposition replied, "I have not used 'anyone but Bibi' for a very long time. I said that we will not sit in the government of a person with serious criminal charges. This is not a statement about Bibi. This is a statement about the rule of law in the State of Israel, about how a reformed country is run. I will not go in and legitimize things I don't believe in. These are my values and principles and those of the movement."

Lapid dismissed the claims about the lack of a leader for the camp that opposes the coalition. "There is a leader, its name is the people of Israel. The absolute majority of Israeli citizens - from the right, the left or the center - want to live in a democracy and understand that something is happening here that will lead us to become an undemocratic country. That is why they are on the streets. That's why there were kippah wearers there, that's why there were people there who voted for Likud. Probably not most of the demonstrators, but there were definitely there."

"It is fine that the people of Israel go out and speak their word," the opposition leader continued. "This is a demonstration in favor of the State of Israel, not a demonstration against it. I came to a demonstration in favor of the State of Israel, in favor of the values of the Declaration of Independence, because of what is dear to all of our hearts. Every year I go on behalf of the Knesset to cemeteries on Memorial Day. I don't recall seeing the words right, left or center on the graves."

When asked what tools are available to the opposition besides demonstrations and shutdowns, he replied, "I believe that the connection of a very broad popular protest that is not really led by politicians, the fact that we in the Knesset will do everything that needs to be done and more than that to delay, stop, argue, say our words and the extensive legal world - all of this together is becoming a powerful statement. Add to that the fact that this government is creating a commotion, mess and noise. They managed to make more of a mess in the State of Israel in three weeks than we did in a year and a half."

On the possibility that the judicial reform will look different at the end of the legislative process in the Knesset, Lapid said, "Governments, usually, the way they start - that's how they end. This is a government in which the Prime Minister is weak and everyone leads him and everyone drags him in his own direction. There is a painful collision with reality here. Ben Gvir made his career on TikTok and Instagram. Now he has to actually manage. These guys are much better at TikTok and in protest marches, much less good at running a country."