Lapid avoids Knesset, denies education cuts

Yacimovich storms out plenum when finance minister decides to respond to issue on Facebook, instead of appearing at Knesset.

April 9, 2013 22:52
3 minute read.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid at Knesset swear in, February 5, 2013

Lapid at Knesset 370. (photo credit: Uriel Sinai/Reuters)

Finance Minister Yair Lapid sparked the ire of opposition MKs with his planned budget cuts and failure to appear in the Knesset for a special meeting on the topic, choosing instead to post a statement on Facebook.

Most of the opposition’s criticism during a meeting it called during the Knesset’s Passover recess targeted a rumored 20-percent increase in university tuition due to cutbacks.

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Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) read aloud from Yesh Atid’s platform, which opposes cuts in the education budget.

“You’re in your job for two minutes, and who do you hurt first? Those you promised to represent,” she said in a speech addressed to Lapid and Education Minister Shai Piron, who were not in the plenum. “You’re hurting students who serve in the army, who do reserve duty, who pay taxes. Imagine if a finance minister from Shas hurt students first and Yesh Atid was in the opposition, how you would scream – justifiably.”

Yacimovich said Lapid was displaying a total lack of credibility and harming the country’s scientific research, medical, security and technological capabilities by cutting funding to higher education.

“You’re cutting everything that lets us survive, blossom and grow – you, finance minister and education minister from Yesh Atid,” she charged.

“Have you no shame?” Over an hour after the plenum discussion began, Lapid wrote a Facebook status saying that university students were the victim of spin, and that he had never decided to raise tuition.

“If I thought someone was going to harm students, I would go to my house to protest against myself,” he quipped. “The upcoming budget will put the working man at the center. A student who works in a part-time job and prepares the academic basis for his professional life is the core of the vision of a working man that we are leading today. He is tomorrow’s middle class.”

Opposition MKs immediately expressed incredulity at Lapid’s choice to defend himself on Facebook.

“The finance minister had time to write on Facebook instead of coming to the Knesset and answering the opposition’s questions in a respectful manner?” Yacimovich asked, standing up in her seat. “We have reached a new low.”

She called for Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to demand that Lapid appear.

“Facebook is not a replacement for the Knesset,” the opposition leader declared, and stormed out of the plenum.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) called Lapid a coward for not coming to the Knesset.

“He’s running away from having to cope with the parliament and democracy and afraid to answer the questions of Knesset members and public representatives. He is trampling parliamentary rules, because he prefers Facebook,” Gafni stated.

“Yesh Atid’s slogan asks, ‘Where is the money?’ but I want to know, where is the finance minister?” asked Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz.

Lapid says he’s going to make a change, Horowitz continued, but in practice he is continuing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s “cruel economic policies” and looking for money to cover the government’s deficit in the middle class’s pockets.

Labor MK Eitan Cabel called Lapid “Margaret Thatcher with hair gel,” referring to the recently deceased former Conservative British prime minister.

“Lapid is making the impression of not representing any ideology or set plan, and just choosing each morning to dry out another, random sector of society,” the Labor MK said.

“He needs to stop laying his hands on those who have nothing.”

MK Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) pointed out that Lapid had said in the past that he knew nothing about economics.

“The finance minister didn’t wait to learn. He immediately appointed himself as Moses’s inheritor,” Cohen said, in reference to a YouTube video Lapid released during Passover.

“Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets, and threw them when he saw the Golden Calf. He was worried that those who worshipped the calf would get the tablets. This is what we see now: dances around the calf.”

Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levi defended Lapid, calling the rumors of a tuition increase “a low, baseless spin and nothing more.”

As for Lapid’s decision not to attend the meeting, Levi said, “The finance minister asked me to represent him in this discussion, because he is in the course of long and deep discussions on building a budget that will reflect the priorities that the public chose [in the last election].”

Levi promised that when the final budget was presented, Lapid would present it himself and stand courageously in the plenum.

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