Is Lapid a journalist or a politician?

Lapid has no formal education, but has exceptionally developed emotional intelligence. Netanyahu is highly educated and quite knowledgeable, but lacks any emotional intelligence whatsoever.

April 4, 2013 21:38
3 minute read.
Yair Lapid addressing supporters in post election speech, January 22, 2013.

Yair Lapid addressing supporters in post election speech 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)


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Two weeks ago, two groups of people gathered at Ben-Gurion Airport: The country’s top political echelon, who had come to welcome US President Barack Obama, and a second group of ordinary citizens who were standing in line to have their picture taken with Yair Lapid as the other ministers looked on with longing.

This sort of thing hasn’t happened here for quite some time. The most similar occurrence was with Binyamin Netanyahu when he came back to Israel in 1988 after a successful term as ambassador to the UN. Bibi was almost unknown then; he was the brother of the famous war hero Yoni Netanyahu, and succeeded in drawing quite a large number of activists to the Likud.

Netanyahu had turned into the most popular Likud politician practically overnight.

Netanyahu and Lapid are very similar, but are also completely different.

They both speak excellent English, are very familiar with the US and are extremely charismatic. They both know how to formulate short and catchy slogans and identify trends in public opinion.

And yet, their differences are more profound than you might imagine.

Lapid is a prince of Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu is a prince of Jerusalem.

Both of them are sworn lovers of American culture, but from two opposing sides: Lapid is a Democrat and Netanyahu is a Republican.

Lapid has no formal education, but has exceptionally developed emotional intelligence. Netanyahu is highly educated and quite knowledgeable, but lacks any emotional intelligence whatsoever.

In theory, both of them grew up within right-wing politics.

Netanyahu’s right-wing ideology is real, inherited from his father, never to be questioned. Lapid’s father, the late Tommy Lapid, was considered to be on the Right most of his life, but moved toward the Center in his later years, as has his son.

Netanyahu built his career on rightwing ideology, on the prophecies of doom and destruction, on a worldview in which he believes that a second Holocaust could descend upon the Jewish people at each turn.

Lapid created an agenda for solving social and educational conflicts and improving life. Politics are less important to him, whereas Israel’s identity and character are at the fore.

Lapid is an optimist. Netanyahu is a pessimist. Netanyahu connects with the Right. Lapid connects with all Israelis. Netanyahu has yet to do one straight or simple thing. So far, Lapid has done everything that way: straight and simply.

Lapid is an optimistic and humane version of Netanyahu, with many fewer tricks, and without adviser Nathan Eshel or wife Sara.

At the beginning of the week, Lapid held a Finance Ministry meeting to talk about planned budget cuts. After the meeting, he reported what happened in it on his Facebook page. He’s the minister, and also the journalist.

It’s an advantage, but it’s also problematic.

The advantage is that instead of having to search through a variety of sources in order to understand a thing or two about what happened in the meeting, the minister himself put the full description on Facebook in real time. What an amazing world. He sits there in the meeting and at the same time reports about it. Is this good or bad? The truth is – I don’t know yet.

Lapid has been one of the most popular Israelis for quite some time.

And now, according to polls, he is the most popular politician – by far.

But he should not get addicted to this.

From what happened after the ministry meeting, it seems like Lapid is having a hard time weaning himself from his previous life. Yes, he gave that lifestyle up: the high salary, the perks, and the relaxed hours. But he has had a much harder time giving up being a columnist, his desire to please his many fans, and being loved.

Lapid believes that the middle class is what’s holding the country together.

It is the heart, the motor, and the hope. The almost fanatical adoration that he has been enjoying recently wherever he goes could disappear at a moment’s notice. He just needs to ask Bibi. This happened to him a few times already.

I hope that Lapid finds the strength not to blindly follow fame. That he gathers the strength to prevent the inevitable smugness from penetrating his nervous system. That he preserves his human dignity, humility and common sense. That he continues to strive to achieve his goals, for they are worthy.

Oh, and yes – he should occasionally report to us during ministry meetings too. That would be pretty cool.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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