Acting Israeli Prime Minister Lapid holds first Cabinet meeting

TEL AVIV, Israel — Acting Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid held his first Cabinet meeting since taking office on Sunday, promising a functioning government despite political instability that sends Israel to its fifth election in less than four years. .

Lapid, seated next to his predecessor power-sharing partner Naftali Bennett, also warned that Israel would take all necessary measures to defend itself after shooting down three unmanned planes launched by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Lapid took over as prime minister last week under a deal struck last year that created the coalition government. Bennett led it initially but resigned following a series of defections and legislative defeats. Parliament dissolved, calling new elections and returning power to Lapid.

Israel will head to the polls again on November 1, when Lapid will seek to convince voters to adopt his centrist view and deny former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was ousted last year after more than a decade. in power, a chance to return to power. lead the country. Bennett will not show up in November.

“In the coming months, our goal, from this whole table, is to run the government as if there were no election campaign. The citizens of Israel deserve a functioning government at all times,” he said. Lapid.

Lapid faced his first challenge on Saturday, when Hezbollah launched its unmanned aircraft towards an area where an Israeli gas platform was recently installed in the Mediterranean Sea. The move appeared to be an attempt by Hezbollah to influence US-brokered negotiations between Israel and Lebanon on their maritime border, an area rich in natural gas.

“Hezbollah continues its path of terrorism, undermining Lebanon’s ability to reach an agreement on the maritime border. Israel will continue to protect itself, its citizens and its assets,” he said.

Lapid, who served as foreign secretary under Bennett, will use his months as caretaker leader to prove to Israelis that he is prime minister material. He travels to Paris this week for meetings, then next week hosts US President Joe Biden, a potential pre-election boost.

The next elections, like the previous four, will likely be a referendum on Netanyahu’s fitness to lead at a time when he is on trial for corruption. He denies any wrongdoing, but several political parties have refused to join a government led by him, complicating efforts to form coalitions and end political unrest.

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