Analysis: Introducing the Deri-Lapid factor

Two political wildcards, whose names ignited political storms this week, could decide who forms the next government.

yair lapid 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yair lapid 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It was just a coincidence that the same day a quote by former Shas leader Arye Deri ignited a political storm in a teacup, a tweet about Channel 2 journalist Yair Lapid spread like wildfire through the Internet.
But it was not the first and it won’t be the last time you hear these names together in a political context.
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The names Deri and Lapid have a shared past, due to the Popolitika television show in which Deri faced off against Lapid’s late father, then-journalist and future justice minister Yosef Tommy Lapid.
Deri and Lapid also have a shared future as political wildcards who could change the Israeli political map, having a significant impact on who forms the next government and how actively it pursues peace with the Palestinians.
The Deri storm began when he told an audience at Shimon Peres’s Presidential Conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday that he would return to politics at the head of a party in the next election.
While he hinted that he would prefer to run at the head of Shas, the lack of a vacancy at that position could force him to form a new socioeconomic party, which will reportedly be called Tikun, which means fixing but has connotations about making the world a better place.
Deri was surprised by how many headlines his quotes generated because he had said the same thing on multiple occasions.
Lapid was in the limelight on Wednesday thanks to a tweet by Vice Premier Silvan Shalom’s wife, journalist/heiress/socialite Judy Nir-Mozes Shalom, in which she wished Lapid mazal tov for entering politics.
She wrote that her information was based on “a very solid and reliable rumor” that he had finalized his decision to enter politics and that he would be leaving the media shortly.
Nir-Mozes Shalom’s tweet was taken seriously, in part because her family owns Yediot Aharonot in which Lapid is the featured weekend columnist.
Lapid responded on his Facebook page that initially the tweet made him laugh.
But he said that before the story spun out of control, people needed ask themselves three questions.
“If I wanted to announce that I was entering politics, would I do it via Judy Nir- Mozes Shalom’s twitter?? he asked. Would the media outlets promoting this nonsense be happy if Channel 2 and Yediot were harmed? Why does everyone know my plans better than me??” Unfortunately for Lapid, the rumors will persist until the next election is declared with him in or out of it. In that race, he will either remain a purportedly objective news anchor, or he will be the head of a newly formed party.
Officials in the Knesset say Lapid’s political home will be called the Education Party and, unlike his father’s secularist Shinui, will include a rabbi near the top of the list: education activist Shai Piron.
Polls have shown that parties led by Deri and Lapid could each attract several seats in the next Knesset and possibly even double-figures, which could have a huge impact on the next election.

Deri’s party could take votes away from Likud and shift seats from the Right bloc to the Left. That’s why reports have said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is concerned about Deri.
Lapid’s party could take votes away from Kadima and prevent it from winning more seats than Likud. Top Kadima figures have met with him and they undoubtedly urged him to run with them or not at all.
Deri has said he wants a national-unity government to be formed after the next election and that he would use his political power to bring it about. Lapid wants to be education minister and he preaches unity as well.
So perhaps Deri and Lapid, whose fates crossed in the headlines on Wednesday, will find themselves sitting together at a cabinet table some day in the future.