YAIR LAPID. After Avi Gabbay won the Labor leadership primary last Monday, Yesh Atid dropped in the polls..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
“Never let them see you sweat” is a famous deodorant-ad slogan, which is also pretty good political advice that Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid seems to have forgotten lately.
Lapid is extremely polished; his speeches are prepared and soundbite-able, and he takes the unusual-for-Israel step of occasionally using a Teleprompter. He is, in a way, a political leader straight out of central casting.
But lately, Lapid seems to be letting us see him sweat. And with good reason, since Avi Gabbay was elected Labor leader.
After Gabbay won the Labor Party leadership primary 10 days ago, Yesh Atid dropped in the subsequent polls and Labor surpassed the party by far. Gabbay may not have Lapid’s TV-star charisma, but he does seem to have centrist appeal that can pull voters away from Yesh Atid.
And so, on Wednesday, Lapid found himself in a position he usually avoids: Knesset heckler and mudslinger.
In a debate about term limits for a prime minister, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, representing the government, called Yesh Atid hypocritical for proposing such a bill when its own party rules keep Lapid at the helm through the 22nd Knesset. That’s two more elections.
Lapid went for the jugular, attacking Elkin’s former membership in the Kadima party when it was first formed, and did not have a primary for its original Knesset candidates list. It should be noted, however, that Kadima did hold a primary sooner than Yesh Atid’s bylaws stipulate.
Earlier this week, we saw Lapid sweat in two other areas.
One had to do with the claims of “religionization” of secular schools, which have fired up secularist activists, who could in theory support Lapid because of his stances on haredi enlistment and employment. Two weeks ago, he upset the activists by saying that he “doesn’t think” the phenomenon exists. A week ago, right after Yesh Atid polled poorly, Lapid said in an interview on Channel 2 that there is “religionization.”
His opponents to the Left jumped on the inconsistency.
The second incident had to do with Gabbay. Lapid criticized Gabbay for being inexperienced – a criticism Lapid himself faced when he entered politics in 2012. On Monday, Lapid said he shouldn’t have said that about Gabbay, and it’s good that someone successful from the business sector entered politics. In other words, Lapid admitted that he was thrown off his game.
The Yesh Atid leader’s spokesman shut down speculation on the matter Wednesday, saying “it’s a good narrative, but no.”
Term limits have always been part of Yesh Atid’s platform, and the party is pushing its usual policies to be an alternative to Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, Lapid keeps sweating.