During an IDF operation, engaging in petty political self-promotion is considered taboo, tacky and against the best interests of politicians who want to endear themselves to the public.
But as soon as the troops come home and the operation is considered over, politics again becomes fair game.
There were ministers who violated that unwritten rule and promoted themselves while matters of life and death were being decided during the operation. Those who did not are now playing catch-up.
A case in point is Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who for the most part stayed out of the fray and restricted his opinions to meetings of the security cabinet while the operation was taking place. But since the last soldier left Gaza, he has been unrestrained.
On Monday, he released a peace plan for the Strip that focused on building up Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The plan will not be adopted, but Lapid made his presence felt.
In a leak that seemed like it came from Lapid’s office, he slammed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a security cabinet meeting for harming Israel’s relations with US President Barack Obama’s administration.
Sources close to Lapid reportedly boasted that he had bypassed Netanyahu and formed his own diplomatic channels with senior American officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry.
Lapid hinted as much in an interview with Channel 2 on Tuesday night. He said he would not criticize Netanyahu, but did just that even as he made that pledge.
“Our relations with the US are Israel’s best strategic asset besides the IDF,” he said.
“It is forbidden to harm them in any way and it is forbidden for personal relations to harm them in any way. I don’t scold the prime minister, definitely not Netanyahu. But we need to improve our relations with the US,” he continued.
Lapid found excuses to call US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and write a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and others.
He said he wanted to thank them for passing a bill providing $225 million for the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system.
But he could have done that without putting out a press release.
So why is Lapid working to build up his diplomatic credentials? His strategists would not say, which leaves only speculation as an option.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the same week that the finance minister shifted his focus to diplomacy, Lapid became the leader of the Knesset’s most powerful faction.
That title used to belong to Netanyahu, but as Likud Beytenu broke up, Yisrael Beytenu gained a mandate at the Likud’s expense and the ruling party has now been left with 19 MKs in the Knesset.
Lapid’s Yesh Atid has the same number, but his 19 are much more disciplined than Netanyahu’s. With his power substantially increased, it was time for Lapid to start throwing his weight around.
The decision to build his diplomatic profile could be a sign that Lapid thinks the next election is around the corner. He will be competing in that race for the leadership of the center-left bloc and its candidacy for prime minister with Labor leader Isaac Herzog, who already has years of diplomatic experience. Engaging in diplomacy makes a leader look prime ministerial.
Perhaps Lapid only looks active because he had kept what he wanted to say and do to himself for several weeks and could only let it all out now.
Regardless of which theory is true, Lapid will continue to market himself, at which he has proven adept throughout his career.
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