On November 12, 2005, new Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz threatened to bring
down prime minister Ariel Sharon’s government in a fawning interview with anchor
Shelly Yacimovich on Channel 2’s Meet the Press program.
Just two and a
half weeks later, Yacimovich joined Labor at Peretz’s request and announced her
candidacy for the Knesset.
The abrupt move shocked the political and
media establishment and spurred calls for a cooling-off period for journalists
before they make a transition into politics. But Yacimovich entered the Knesset
and other journalists followed her without any cooling-off period being
Fast-forward to 2010. Late Shinui leader Yosef (Tommy) Lapid’s son
Yair, who anchors Channel 2’s top rated news magazine Ulpan Shishi, has
every indication that he intends to follow his father from journalism
politics. Polls have shown that he can match his father’s accomplishment
seats, and if he handles his political career correctly, eventually
serious candidate for prime minister.
But this time, the cabinet and the
Knesset appear poised to prevent Lapid from “pulling a Yacimovich” and
from interviewing politicians to becoming one of them overnight.
Sunday, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation is expected to approve
MK Ronit Tirosh’s so-called Yair Lapid bill, which would require
quit their jobs at least six months before the set date for an election
they plan to run. The bill will then be brought to a preliminary reading
At a Knesset conference of current and former media executives
about the bill on Tuesday, Israel Broadcasting Authority
Shklar agreed to bring the six-month cooling off period to the National
of Editors that he heads to see whether the media chiefs will institute a
cooling-off period on their own and preempt the Knesset
While Shklar opposes cooling-off periods, a majority of
editors are expected to support the proposal, first of all for the pure
of preventing the Knesset from interfering and defying the sanctity of
But more importantly, because they want to deprive Channel 2 of
its ratings king anchor and top circulation newspaper Yediot Aharonot
Lapid himself appeared to accept the cooling-off period
concept in a letter he wrote on Monday to his superiors at Channel 2.
only link to the field [of politics] is that I was asked in the past
foresaw a possibility that in the future I would join politics and I
it was a distant possibility, but I am not rejecting it out of hand,”
wrote. “I decided to make it clear that I am applying to myself the
bill,’ which is currently at the initial stages of deliberation, and
that if I ever decide to change my mind and go into to politics, I will
it at least six months in advance.”
But Lapid’s promise will likely prove
irrelevant because no national election has been held on time since
when elections are advanced, the campaign is usually just four
Unless the next election is held on time, on October 22, 2013,
Lapid can exploit this loophole to keep his current jobs until the day
elections are announced. That would allow him to run without losing his
and to continue to use his TV show to make his face even more
his column to promote his opinions.
Lapid has already become one of the
main voices of opposition to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the
right-wing and haredi parties in his government. Last week’s news
a speech in which Lapid outlined his views were considered sexy because a
reporter had snuck in a tape recorder.
But any regular reader of Yediot
on Fridays, which can be up to half the population,
knows that Lapid
thinks Israel’s public relations are a total failure and that he backs
yeshiva students, requiring haredim to learn the core curriculum,
fourth of the defense budget to education, withdrawing from the West
the Golan Heights and limiting the number of ministers. On Thursday
subscribers found on their doorsteps a front page Lapid
column about the
Emanuel scandal with the headline “It is forbidden to surrender.” In the
he speaks for the secular majority saying that “time after time, our
with anger” and complaining about a United Torah Judaism MK who compared
to Nazi Germany.
At a time when haredi-secular relations have become big
news and the most fragile fault line in the government, Lapid provides a
for the secular masses that no one in the Knesset provides today.
Hayehudi MK Uri Orbach, who had a column in Yediot and a show on Army
before he entered the political fray, summed it up when he said at
conference that even if he did watch television on Friday night, he
watch Lapid because he already saw him as a politician.
conference, former Second Television Authority chairman Yitzhak Livni,
who was a
close friend of Tommy Lapid, pointed his finger at the politicians in
and accused them of being afraid of Yair.
“MKs just support this bill
because they see him as a threat to their own jobs,” said Livni, who is
related to the head of Kadima.
“They know there are only 120 seats
available here and they know that if he joins, this place will look
Livni put the MKs on the defensive.
Likud MK Carmel
Shama, who has his own Lapid bill with a year’s cooling-off period,
to have the legislation only take effect with the following Knesset to
that his bill was not targeted at Lapid.
“I didn’t do this for the next
Knesset but for the next hundred Knessets,” Shama said. “MKs aren’t
Yair Lapid. I’m not worried personally about him entering politics
would only help my party, so there are no conflicts of interest.”
last jab was clearly aimed at Tirosh, whose Kadima could lose half its
if there was another centrist party aimed at secular Israelis. Kadima
Tzipi Livni told Army Radio on Wednesday that she wanted Lapid to enter
and called him a personal friend.
Kadima sources said Livni has actively
tried to woo Lapid to her party behind the scenes. Lapid’s decision
whether to join Kadima or start his own party could decide Livni’s
The remnants of Labor and Meretz also have an interest in Lapid
staying out of politics and in ending up on his list if he joined.
MKs are divided about Lapid. Some, like Shama, think he will divide the
center-left and help Netanyahu win a second term. But others fear Lapid
unite the opposition and give it new life.
The only MKs who seemed
overjoyed this week about the prospect of Lapid in politics were the
A Shas official recalled that his party’s heyday coincided with
Tommy Lapid’s reign.
“We are definitely not afraid of Yair Lapid,” the
Shas official said.