Analysis: Will Lapid be the torch – or the torched?

MKs saw recent initiatives by Netanyahu as a preemptive strike against journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
January 9, 2012 01:27
4 minute read.
Yair Lapid

Yair Lapid 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The headline of Yair Lapid’s column in Friday’s Yediot Aharonot grabbed attention. It was called “The Cooling-off Law.”

Lapid had become less subtle in revealing his political opinions in recent columns. But was he going to use his column to attack the so-called “Yair Lapid Bill” that would institute a cooling off period for journalists before entering politics ahead of Wednesday’s vote on the legislation? Nope. The column was about him getting a cold.

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But Lapid’s footprints were all over Friday’s newspapers in the reports on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plan to subsidize free education for toddlers, which passed Sunday. Lapid wasn’t mentioned in the reports, but MKs saw the plan as a preemptive strike by Netanyahu against Lapid, who hinted that education would be the focus of his new party long before he announced Sunday that he was officially embarking on his new political career.

“This is the real Yair Lapid Bill,” one MK said last week when talking about Netanyahu’s proposal.

The MK, who considers Lapid a close friend, said Yair had been agonizing about whether to give up the good life as a respected journalist, lecturer, screenwriter and author to enter a profession he considers dirty. He said Lapid had dreaded the decision and wanted to delay it as long as possible.

Lapid had good reason to want to postpone his announcement until “a minute before the next election,” as he said in an interview with his Channel 2 colleague, Ilana Dayan.



He has seen many supposed knights in shining armor appear invincible before they entered politics only to gradually lose support over the course of a grueling political campaign.

David Ben-Gurion’s Rafi, Ariel Sharon’s Shlomzion, and the Center Party of Yitzhak Mordechai and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak were all expected to ride their leaders’ coattails to political fortune but they all fizzled.

The next election is only set for October 2013 and Lapid’s entrance into politics just gave Netanyahu a reason to make sure it will be held as close as possible to then.

Lapid has spent years asking questions.

Now that he will have to answer them, every time someone disagrees with his response, he loses another vote.

The Yair Lapid Bill forced him to make a premature decision to leave plum jobs anchoring the highly rated Ulpan Shishi news-magazine on Channel 2 and most likely also his Yediot Aharonot column. Now that he will focus on building the structure of his new party and meeting potential supporters across the country, Kadima stands to lose the most from Lapid’s entrance into politics.

Polls have shown he could take away two-thirds of the party’s support.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who hired a rapper to write a song about her ahead of the last election to make herself look cool, can’t compete with Lapid when it comes to charisma.

Livni suffered a blow when she had nothing to say about the summer’s socioeconomic protests. She was then overshadowed by new Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich and then blindsided by Netanyahu’s call for a leadership race in Likud. Now that every time Lapid opens his mouth it will be a headline, Livni will have a tough time appearing relevant.

Former Kadima treasurer Itzik Hadad, who is currently suing Livni, published a picture of her pulling out her hair on Lapid’s Facebook wall and said it was her reaction to him entering politics.

If Livni is the main loser from the Lapid news, who is the winner? The answer is the people who Lapid loves to hate.

Netanyahu will receive a lot of criticism from Lapid ahead of the next election. But he will be overjoyed when Lapid divides votes on the Center-Left with Labor and Kadima.

However, the biggest winners from Lapid entering politics are the haredim (ultra- Orthodox). His father, Shinui leader Yosef Tommy Lapid waged war against them but also helped them attract attention and more mandates in the Knesset.

Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev already started by calling Lapid “a monster” and former Shas leader Arye Deri criticized Ulpan Shishi’s coverage of the battle between the secular and haredim in Beit Shemesh.

Lapid means torch in Hebrew. Lapid’s success or failure in enlightening the masses over the next several months will indicate whether he will indeed be a torch or whether his political career will be torched.

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