Lapid’s slippery slope

"While Lapid is pummeling middle class exemplar Ricki Cohen and friends, PM is protecting Israel from high up on the Great Wall of China."

May 9, 2013 21:55
3 minute read.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid at a faction meeting, February 18, 2013.

Lapid at faction meeting 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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During one of the coalition negotiation meetings in the not so distant past, a Likud Beytenu member offered Yair Lapid the Finance Ministry.

At the time, Lapid wanted the Foreign Ministry. “Forget it,” Hillel Kovrinski, Lapid’s head negotiator, told the Likud Beytenu’s David Shomron and Moshe Leon.

“Lapid’s no good at that kind of stuff. He wouldn’t know what to do with the Finance Ministry. It’s not for him.”

This week, we watched in real time as this statement proved itself. Had Lapid insisted on getting the Foreign Ministry, he could have been in China right now, and Binyamin Netanyahu would be the one here sweating and dealing with the budget cuts with whoever he had been picked to be the finance minister.

Lapid has found himself slipping down the first slippery slope of his long career.

And he couldn’t have picked a more slippery one.

To add insult to injury, Netanyahu was at that very moment in far away and magical China, whence he dispatched authoritative announcements at breakneck speed. Although he tried, Bibi could not help but look smug. Life is treating him nicely these days. How is he connected to the punches Lapid is hitting his constituents with? This is why places like China were created.

It’s no coincidence that Netanyahu flew to the farthest place he could exactly during this interim period between the publication of the budget proposal and the Knesset vote on it. These are the days that every finance minister dreads, and now it’s Lapid’s turn.

Netanyahu hasn’t had such a fun week in a very long time. He is doing to Lapid what Ariel Sharon one did to him, just a little more painfully. While Lapid is pummeling the middle class exemplar Ricki Cohen and her friends, Bibi is protecting Israel from high up on the Great Wall of China. He’s been chatting with Barack Obama on the phone, dealing with matters of great importance and from time to time looking compassionately at the poor souls working up a sweat in Zion. For the first time ever, Netanyahu is not overly concerned about social protests. If Israelis go out to protest on Saturday night, it will be against Lapid, not Bibi.

There’s no point in looking at the details of Lapid’s first budget proposal. The economists can do that much more skillfully. And anyway they’re going to make changes to it numerous times before it passes.

The question is, were Lapid’s wings clipped this week, or was he dealt a serious blow? Will this crisis weaken him or even make him fold? Up until now, Lapid has been marching ahead at full speed, powered by this new age of politics.

Now he is experiencing its shortcomings firsthand.

This new age of politics is frenetic, temporary and dependent on mood, fashion and Facebook indices. Once, the major political parties were based on relatively permanent number of seats.

Sometimes they would gain a few seats and win the election, or they could lose a few seats and be left out of the coalition. Nowadays, it is possible to go from 0 to 19 seats in six seconds, but it’s also possible to go right back down in one second flat.

It’s such a shame that Lapid had to bring Histradrut labor federation chief Ofer Eini to the press conference on Wednesday evening and not United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, for example.

Haredim come in very handy when you need someone to hide behind, but Gafni has already learned his lesson. He’s not going to go through that again. The haredim have decided in the meanwhile to lay low for now and left Lapid to fend for himself, after leaving the haredim high and dry just a few months back.

And yet, it’s too early to write Lapid’s obituary. Lapid has proven that he’s made of the right stuff. But for now, Netanyahu can check off the first line in his little black book; the immediate threat has been removed.

If the election campaign were to start today, Lapid would not be introduced to supporters as “the next prime minister.” He’s now the former candidate to be the next prime minister. The heavy burden of proof was placed on Lapid’s shoulders this week. Now the real game begins.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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