This Article is From Oct 09, 2023

"Nobody Cares About Politics Right Now": Israel Opposition Leader To NDTV

Yair Lapid, currently the Leader of Opposition in Israel, said the country is united in its fight against terror and that "no one is thinking about politics right now".

New Delhi:

Israel will go all-out to ensure "this never happens again", the country's former Prime Minister Yair Lapid told NDTV in an exclusive interview days after the Hamas group's attack.

Lapid spoke to NDTV as sirens rang through Israel's streets that have seen unprecedented horror over the past few days.

On how Israel would respond to these attacks, he said, "The most urgent thing is we deny Hamas these capabilities and make sure they never again have the opportunity to massacre women, children and the elderly. As the Prime Minister said, this is going to be difficult and hard, and we would have to be patient."

Israel has started a brutal counterstrike in retaliation to the Hamas attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel would "forcefully avenge this dark day". More than 1,100 people have died in the Hamas strike and Israel's retaliatory attacks.

"There is going to be a military operation, incursion is not out of the question because we have to make sure this does not happen again," Lapid said amid Israel's counter-offensive in Gaza Strip.

Underlining the scale of the Hamas attack, he said, "Assume there was a terror attack in which 200000-300000 Indians died the same day. This is what we have been suffering."

Lapid has suggested Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu to look into the possibility of putting an emergency government in place to respond to the current crisis. "Nobody cares about politics right now. It doesn't matter. My party and I will do everything to support the troops, the government because this is something that is bigger than daily politics," he said.

On hostages that Hamas operatives have taken, he said, "We have so many people in captivity, we want to see them back."

In a sharp warning to all the groups who have joined forces against Israel, Lapid said, "They should know we were caught by surprise once. We will not be caught by surprise twice."

Besides Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad are also part of the offensive against Israel.

"Iran is behind a lot of what is going on, and they are accountable. We are going to make sure everybody understands that the reaction is going to be devastating for whoever is going to try to hurt our people," he said.

On how the attack and its aftermath will play out in the geopolitical context, he said, "It's a painful reminder of the fact that global terror is everybody's enemy. We have all suffered from it. There is no negotiation with terror. We just have to make sure we have the ability to join forces and fight global terrorism. This is an opportunity for me to thank Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and his government for the support they have shown to Israel."

Lapid said there will be collateral damage as Israel hits back. "We are going to do our best to avoid the killing of bystanders, but there will collateral damage because this is war in a very dense area. People of Gaza should do their best to go as far as they can from Hamas facilities because we are going to hunt for them. Unlike them, we are doing our best to avoid collateral damage, but war is war."

The Israeli leader said it is easy to support Israel now as people see bodies of Israelis piled up, but "we will need the support of our friends in the coming days when heart-bleeding so-called liberals come and say we have to stop this".

On a question on whether Israeli government's resettlement efforts contributed to the tension in the region, Lapid said, "The only reason they attacked women, children and the elderly is because they can do it and they want to kill Jews. I am the son of a Holocaust survivor. We know anti-Semitism when we see it."

Lapid conceded the intelligence failure to prevent an attack of this scale. "We have a huge intelligence failure on our hands and we will deal with it after we deal with the more urgent thing of making sure that we take their capabilities. This was a surprise attack, there is no way of hiding from it. But we have a good history of learning from mistakes instead of agonising over them. And this is what we are going to do."

The Israeli leader said the country needs the support of the global community now. "People tend to forget that we left Gaza 20 years back and told them to build a life for themselves. But they built training camps for Hamas and Islamic Jihad and fired more than 25,000 rockets at Israel. Right now, we need the global community's support and patience. We are going to deal with it," he said.