This past Monday, while standing at the Knesset podium, preparing to deliver his
comments about the upcoming budget cuts, Finance Minister Yair Lapid instead
tore the haredi MKs to pieces. Verbally, of course. He didn’t plan to do it. But
he didn’t need to. These ideas have been waiting patiently in his mind for years
There, at the podium, he took hold of the microphone, and watched
the haredi MKs screaming and running around the plenum hall. But they have no
chance against Lapid. Moshe Gafni, Ya’acov Litzman and Arye Deri are all
incredibly frightened by this phenomenon known as Yair Lapid.
stepped down from the podium, Moshe Gafni approached him. They whispered
together in the little foyer for a few minutes. That’s it! Gafni told
This was the last time. We will never give you the pleasure again
of holding a direct debate with you. But we can talk about your unilateral
decisions. Or the promises you made but didn’t keep. We will no longer allow
ourselves to be drawn into this kind of match.
Lapid just smiled. The
smile of a satisfied cat. You’re right, Lapid told Gafni. I understand that I
will not be able to have a straight conversation with you. It would be like
talking to a brick wall. But I won’t have any trouble attracting your friends’
attention within seconds. Trust me.
If Lapid’s operational ability is
even 10 percent of his verbal ability, then he is set.
And so are we.
Lapid put on an unforgettable show this week, a double whammy.
appearance at the Knesset, he beat the haredim to a pulp.
Lapid is the
master presenter. His secret is his perfect ability to put into words exactly
what we’re all thinking. He is capable of deciphering what we are feeling and
then bundling it with charm and charisma. But with all due respect, he will also
need to put his money where his mouth is. That’s where Lapid’s success is going
to be measured. In the end, we will all look at our own personal financial
situation in three years’ time and check if it has improved. That’s what will
determine Lapid’s fate.
Will Lapid be the next prime minister (and
possibly appoint Binyamin Netanyahu as finance minister)? Or maybe he’ll chair
the next Finance Committee in the next Knesset, since he’ll have experience as a
In the meantime, Lapid can give himself a high grade.
Maybe even very high. He is recommending harsh cuts, but Ricki Cohen, his
proverbial middle class Israeli, can’t wipe the smile off her face. She’s still
fascinated by what’s happening to her.
But let’s get back to Gafni. Tell
me, I said when I spoke with him this week, why are you so angry that you were
left out of the government coalition? Can’t you understand that it’s possible to
run a country without haredim in the government? By the way, I told him, we
still fail to understand why you haven’t done your share in protecting our
country and participating in our economy for the past 65 years.
fact – you haven’t. So you can be left out of the government every once in a
while, no? But Gafni was not confused. He is not the type who gets confused.
Don’t make me laugh, he said. I’m from the United Torah Judaism party, and we
are used to being left out. It’s legitimate to be left out. I’ve no problem with
But it becomes illegitimate when we are left out because of who we
are. When we are disqualified because we are haredi.
Then it’s no longer
legitimate. It’s even dangerous. Listen, we’re a minority, but a large minority.
This business could lead to very bad places. I’m quite worried.
hurting. Badly. His heart and his head. He knows all too well that the haredim
are in deep trouble. They got rid of Tommy Lapid, but ended up with an upgraded
third-generation version of Tommy – with lots of cool new
Lapid’s trying, Gafni tells me, not to be like his father in
any way, to differentiate himself, to prove that he doesn’t hate haredim. The
opposite in fact – he says he loves haredim! But this past Monday, at the
Knesset, the Tommy in him slipped out.
So now you truly know how the
Israeli public feels about you, I told Gafni.
The next few years in the
opposition are going to be tough for Gafni. And he knows it. The enemy he is up
against is smart, articulate and has the public’s full support.
haredi community’s main source of nourishment will soon dry up and then
It’s not going to be a boring
year.Translated by Hannah Hochner.