Yedioth Aharonoth columnist Nahum Barnea reported on Friday that in a phone conversation last week between Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid and a Chabad leader in Israel, Lapid warned: “If you support Smotrich and Ben-Gvir’s party, I will persecute you,” adding, “The story of menorahs in every intersection on Chanukah and Chabad houses around the world is over. Your story about your love of Israel is finished.”
According to Barnea—who is not bursting with love for Haredi or National Religious Jews—Chabad and the Haredi National Religious are a good fit. He recalled the 1996 campaign that was funded by individual Chabadniks (not the movement) under the banner “Netanyahu Is Good for the Jews,” and suggested the move to “Ben-Gvir Is Good for the Jews” might be a logical next step.
MK Bezalel Smotrich responded to Barnea’s column, saying: “The entire difference between Chabad and Lapid [can be delineated from] one threat. The Chabad movement is careful not to identify politically, loves, and assists any Jew wherever he is without any conditions or political affiliation. This is the exact opposite of Lapid. I’m sure Chabad will continue to love Lapid, bring him close and host him happily even after this threat. Because that’s what the Chabadniks have been for more than 200 years.”
After realizing that his threat against the popular Chabad movement was damaging to his own campaign, Lapid tweeted Friday afternoon: I want to make clear: I do not nor will I persecute anyone, certainly not my good friends from the Chabad movement, a movement with many merits with only the love of Israel and the love of the land before their eyes. At the same time, I express my deep concern that Itamar Ben-Gvir and the followers of the murderer Baruch Goldstein will enter the Knesset.”
Lapid added: “I will continue to fight in every way that no one should give a helping hand to racism, incitement, and further division among the people, nor will anyone support the Kahanists who threaten the integrity of the people of Israel.”
Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett attacked Lapid, writing: “Chabad has been saving countless Jews around the world for decades, with the devotion of their emissaries. And Lapid dares to threaten all of that because of politics?! Would he have dared say such a thing to a group of pilots who wanted to vote for Meretz? Beloved Chabad emissaries, continue in your path. This foolish threat will evaporate into the dustbin of history.”
Which is a curiously mixed metaphor, because, well, how do you dump evaporated threats into a dustbin?
A source in Chabad told Kikar HaShabat on Friday: “Apparently this is a Purim joke. Chabad does not interfere in politics, does not stir in political parties’ business, does not personally identify with any politician – and will continue to spread the Judaism of acceptance and to love every man and woman regardless of their views.”