Inside Out: Slogans and substance
Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with Lapid’s various positions, he deserves credit for stating clearly what he stands for.
Yair Lapid at first Yesh Atid conference Photo: Ricardo Mallaco
With elections drawing nearer, the parties and candidates have begun to campaign
vigorously in hope of winning over wavering voters, while ensuring the loyalty
of their own supporters.
To some degree, all candidates resort to catchy
slogans and carefully crafted sound-bites as an effective means of conveying
positive messages about themselves and, alternately, denigrating their
In the balance, opposition parties tend to have an easier time
invoking pithy slogans than do governing parties seeking reelection. The
opposition can always appeal to the public’s desire for “hope” and “change” –
concepts that are deliberately left vague so as to appeal to as broad an
audience as possible. The governing parties, alternately, which have their
record to reckon with, tend to campaign on the “responsibility” and “leadership”
that they supposedly showed while in office.
As voters, however, we need
to try to look beyond all the sloganeering for the substance that the candidates
and their parties truly offer us. We need to discern what the various parties’
real priorities are and where their slogans fall short of reality.
economic issues, the Likud has cited the government’s success at preventing the
global economic crisis from adversely affecting Israel, while warning that Labor
Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich’s “outdated socialism” was sure to lead
Israel to the brink of economic disaster, citing “Greece and Spain” as the
Yacimovich, alternately, has tried to tap into
middle class disgruntlement, suggesting that the Netanyahu government has
preferred to tax hard-working regular folks rather than tax his allies in big
Both sides are telling self-serving half-truths. The Netanyahu
government called early elections because it did not want to have to pass a
budget filled with unpopular austerity measures – measures that are necessary
because the Israeli economy is not in as great shape as Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz would like the public to believe.
The global economic crisis is only one of the factors that has contributed to
Israel’s budgetary problems; the other is domestic policy decisions that were
made by the government in the past four years, decisions that reflected the
A good example is the status quo with the
haredim (ultra-Orthodox). Netanyahu was loath to change the status quo in
a way that might antagonize the haredi politicians, his stalwart coalition
partners. He failed to replace the Tal Law with legislation that would allow not
only for a more equitable sharing of the burden of military service, but which
would lead to the integration of haredim into the workforce, taking many of them
off welfare and generating more tax revenues for the state.
preservation of the status quo with the haredim, which was maintained for the
sake of political expedience, has cost the Israeli economy not only lost tax
revenues and increased welfare payments, it has also come at the expense of
people who are truly needy. Earlier this month an internal report by the Welfare
Ministry noted that roughly 80 percent of the ministry’s funds that were
allocated to help finance organizations that assist the disabled and the needy
went to haredi institutions.
Yacimovich should be faulted for sticking to
her catchy slogans about big business and the middle class, instead of loudly
criticizing the Netanyahu government for this destructive policy vis-à-vis the
She has deliberately skirted this issue so as not to antagonize
the haredi parties, which she views as prospective coalition partners, provided
she can win away enough votes from the Right and Center with her populist
Yacimovich and Netanyahu have also refrained from
addressing in any detail their views on the future of the West Bank and its
Palestinian population, preferring either to ignore the question altogether or
to opt for vapid slogans. Neither of them has said clearly where they believe
Israel should be in, let’s say, another 20 years and how they propose Israel
ought to get there.
The political logic of the vagueness of their
positions is readily apparent – it allows them to appeal to a larger segment of
the undecided voters in the center without alienating their base.
interesting exception to the norm set by Netanyahu and Yacimovich is Yair Lapid.
While Lapid has been repeatedly mocked by pundits and established politicians as
a pretty face with no substantive content to offer, the facts tell a different
Lapid has put himself on the line on most of the crucial issues,
taking a clear and principled stance on the cardinal questions facing Israel.
Lapid is no fool, and his messages are gauged in a clear attempt to appeal to as
broad a swath of the Israeli center as possible, but he has not allowed that to
prevent him from clearly stating positions of principle on foreign policy and
security, healthcare, the haredi draft, education, welfare, civil marriage and
other issues that cannot continue to be swept under the carpet in the name of
Lapid has gathered around him an impressive and
diverse group of people who have helped him draft a detailed, carefully-crafted
and clear platform on all the major issues on the table. Rabbi Shai Piron of
Tzohar has helped formulate Yesh Atid’s policy on synagogue-state relations and
education; Ofer Shelah has contributed to the party’s position on the
Palestinian question, some of which was outlined in detail by Lapid in his
address in Ariel on Tuesday; Rabbi Dov Lipman, who is a haredi Jew, has been
instrumental in drafting party policy on haredi integration into Israeli
Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with Lapid’s
various positions, in an era in which sloganeering, blurred positions and
crafting the perfect sound-bite are the line toed by the two front-running
parties and their candidates, Lapid deserves credit for crossing that line and
stating clearly what he stands for.
The author is a veteran Israeli
writer and translator.