Blue & White’s Yair Lapid speculates on winning and losing

"Worried like never before..."

Blue and White No.2 Yair Lapid (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Blue and White No.2 Yair Lapid
There is nothing politicians like less than speculating, and Blue and White’s co-candidate for prime minister Yair Lapid is no exception.
Lapid was more than willing to speculate on what would happen if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wins another four-year term. He was less interested in talking about what would happen politically if Blue and White wins the election.
But he made clear that Blue and White is seeking a coalition of contradictions that will include the Likud but not Netanyahu, that will have right-wing parties but advance peace and that will advance Israeli Arabs but not include their representatives.
Lapid is expecting to be foreign minister in the first half of such a government and would devote his attention in the post to fixing Netanyahu’s mistakes in the diplomatic arena.
But the issue Lapid, who has a daughter with special needs, cares about most is helping children with disabilities. The current government’s refusal to find funding to help these children is what is driving Lapid and making him more determined than ever to win the race.
In an interview at a Tel Aviv café, Lapid explains why Netanyahu’s purported close relationship with the president of the United States is a myth and why the prime minister, despite his campaign slogan, is not in another league.
What will the country look like in four years, if Netanyahu is reelected?
Jonathan Franzen wrote that we live in an era in which hatred became entertainment. In many ways, Netanyahu is an embodiment of this phenomenon. I think if Netanyahu remains prime minister, in the next coming years, Israel might become an Erdogan-like pretend-democracy. I think the institutions that hold us together, like the police, courts, opposition, free media and even the commanders of the army, will become part of a puppet show, instead of the beating heart of our country. I think we will be singled out in the world as a country that made division its defining feature.
I am worried like never before. This is why I am doing what I am doing. That is why I established Blue and White. This is why we need to win this election. I wasn’t like that before. I always had contempt when the Israeli Left screamed about the end of democracy. I thought they were drama queens. But now I think Netanyahu has changed, from being crushed by his legal problems and from being in office way too long. He is taking us to a bad place, and he needs to be stopped.
You are Blue and White’s candidate for prime minister in a rotation after Benny Gantz, but the party calls for a unity government with the Likud, which would also demand the premiership, so would you give up the rotation in such a scenario?
I don’t give interviews about what happens after the election. Wait a week and we will see. Speculation and commentary is your job, not mine. I am trying to win an election. I don’t have time to play games. What the press is trying to do is work on a puzzle that has no picture.
Last weekend, The Jerusalem Post explained a possible scenario in which Gantz and Netanyahu both fail to form a government, and the Likud then elects a new leader in a snap election and forms a government, as Boris Johnson did in Britain. How likely is such a scenario?
You have moved from journalism to scriptwriting. I did scriptwriting before coming into politics. But I can relate to this version of reality.
I know that within the Likud, they won’t let Netanyahu drag them into a third Knesset election. They are putting all the stones there for a quick shift within the Likud. We all know all the players: Gideon Sa’ar, Yuli Edelstein, Israel Katz, Avi Dichter. They will say enough is enough. They are saying this privately to you [journalists] as well. It’s what at first was whispered and is now pretty prevalent. Each of these leaders is acceptable. All the potential leaders of the Likud not under indictment are acceptable.
Unlike Bibi, who interferes in other parties, I’m not telling the Likud who should lead them. I am saying we will not work with Netanyahu.
What scenario do you see happening after the election?
There is one thing we do know: The president is going to call the leader of the largest party to form a government. That’s why we have to be the largest party. Especially if no political bloc has a clear majority, it’s very important to be the largest party. That’s why voting for Labor-Gesher or the Democratic Union is a vote for Bibi. Eventually, politics is simple. What’s going to happen is the president will look at the largest party, and then we’ll see.
Joint List candidate Ahmad Tibi outlined his financial demands for supporting a Blue and White-led minority coalition from outside the government and giving you a blocking majority needed to govern. Is this a possibility for you?
No. You don’t form a blocking majority; it happens, or it doesn’t.
The Arab citizens of this country have real problems that need to be addressed. There is a huge problem of violence in the Arab sector that isn’t being attended to. There is a huge problem in education, huge problems in infrastructure and housing. These issues need to be addressed, and we’ll address them because they are our citizens.
Netanyahu said US President Donald Trump’s plan will be revealed soon after the election. How will you handle it if elected?
Netanyahu has tried to sell us the theory that he knows how to get anything from Trump. But Trump is now trying to meet with the Iranian president. The only thing that works to stop Iran’s nuclearization is sanctions. There have been hints that to get the meeting, sanctions will be lifted. Netanyahu said he would not object to Trump meeting Rouhani. I am against the meeting.
We don’t know much about what is in Trump’s plan, but we know some of what is in it. Since there is a relationship between Trump and Netanyahu, if the plan was good for Netanyahu, it would have been leaked, so it must not be good for Netanyahu. The legend Netanyahu worked so hard to craft about the special relationship he has with Trump seems to be debunked in front of our eyes.
You are Blue and White’s candidate for foreign minister. What would you do if you soon get that post?
I would restore the bipartisan status of Israel in the US and restore relations with the majority of Jews in the US, with Europe and with international organizations. There is a lot that has to be restored.
What other message would you like to give Post readers before the election?
There is NIS 300 million missing from the state budget for kids with disabilities. This government approved allocating NIS 11 billion to coalition partners, but couldn’t find NIS 300m. for kids with disabilities. This is a disgrace, a sign of a government that has forgotten what it is supposed to do. The coalition partners have been blackmailing Netanyahu like crazy, and he’s been giving them everything so he can have immunity from prosecution. This must be changed. This is my message to your readers.