In a speech to supporters on Wednesday evening in Ramat Gan, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid, announced the official launch of his party’s election campaign for the 25th Knesset.
Addressing the enthusiastic crowd of the country’s “best and brightest” young elites, he used the royal “we” to describe his 10-year journey to the premiership. Suddenly, when he began the meat of his talk by stating that “what we’re doing today is more critical than ever,” cheering turned to jeering, as a group of disgruntled hospital staffers in scrubs began to cause a stir at the back of the room.
“Wait, wait,” Lapid admonished. “Sit down. They’re right. They shouldn’t have to work 26-hour shifts. Don’t silence them. They’re also our family. They deserve to be taken care of by their state. We’re going to take care of it.”
Turning to the medical personnel, one of whom was heckling with a vengeance, he added, “You’re completely right, and we’re going to take care of it, even if it takes time.”
To the rest of the audience, he said, “These are interns, and they shouldn’t have to work 26-hour shifts.” In an attempt to calm the atmosphere so that he could go on with his prepared oratory, he smiled and quipped, “Politics is a hot business; we know that already.”
He then resumed making his original point, stating, “What we’re doing today is more critical than ever, because it’s not a battle over politics, but rather over the question of who we are. The answer from the other side is that we’re enemies. Our answer is that we’re family. A family… looks out for one another; even if you don’t agree with someone, you’re still connected to him.”
“What we’re doing today is more critical than ever, because it’s not a battle over politics, but rather over the question of who we are. The answer from the other side is that we’re enemies. Our answer is that we’re family. A family… looks out for one another; even if you don’t agree with someone, you’re still connected to him.”Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid
THIS WAS pretty amusing, coming from a key figure in the “anybody but Bibi” camp, which draws its inspiration from blackening the name, reputation and longstanding leadership of former prime minister and current opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Oh, and debasing the huge swath of the public that backs him or, at least, a coalition led by his Likud Party.
“We beat the machine of incitement and poison four times, and we’re going to beat it again for the fifth time,” he went on, driving his adoring fans wild with chants of: “Hoo-ha, Yesh Atid, Prime Minister Yair Lapid.” It rhymed in Hebrew, too.
Never mind that his depiction of the outcome of the last four rounds of elections was off, to put it mildly. In fact, there was a coalition deadlock that was only broken when Lapid agreed to a let former prime minister Naftali Bennett go first as the head of the government, despite having hardly any seats.
Lapid was integral to the failed government
Lapid deserves credit for the clever move. He turned Bennett into the fall guy for a year, and ended up taking the reins from a peculiar post – that of a newly instated incumbent running for reelection.
Clearly, however, not everybody has forgotten that he was just as integral to the failed government as Bennett. Take those angry young doctors calling him to task, for instance. They probably voted for him before, and are experiencing serious buyers’ remorse.
“We won’t let them [the Netanyahu bloc] destroy our home,” he bellowed. “And this time, again, they’ll tell us that it’s impossible [for us to form a government]. Again, this time, we’ll prove to them that if we decide to do something, there’s no way to stop us.”
At this, the assemblage erupted in shouts of: “Yesh Atid, we came to make a change!” It didn’t rhyme in Hebrew either.
Still, it was an extraordinary slogan, considering that “change” in this case would constitute banishing Lapid and his cohorts to the back benches of Israel’s parliament.
Realizing that he’d better explain the cognitive dissonance, he said, “Everything changed this past year, but not our values; not the things that we care about – the rule of law, strengthening the middle class; Israeli democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, striving for peace with the Palestinians and countries in the region, Judaism that’s for all [streams], a free market that creates opportunities for each child and cares for the weak [members of society].”
SOUNDS LIKE Israel as it is and always has been. No transformation there – except, of course, for the regression involved in mentioning the Palestinians and Mideast peace in the same breath. After all, the Palestinians opposed the Abraham Accords, which illustrated beyond a doubt that the road to peace in the region does not pass through the Palestinian Authority.
It’s Lapid and his buddies in the administration of US President Joe Biden who insist on reverting to old mantras that have been exposed as utterly false. You know, like that of former US secretary of state (and current “climate czar”) John Kerry, who in December 2016 told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg – in an onstage interview at the 13th annual Saban Forum in Washington, DC – “No. No, no and no. There will be no advance and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process and without the Palestinian peace.”
Well, as Lapid stressed in his speech, “When you know what you believe in, nothing will stop you.”
“We promised, and we delivered,” he boasted. “We promised to change the government; we delivered. We promised to establish a government; we delivered. How they put us down. How many analysts sat in TV studios and explained that we didn’t have a chance, and that it won’t happen. You [supporters, on the other hand], had faith, and it’s thanks to you that it happened.”
When the noisy kudos died down, he continued, “We promised to lower unemployment, to protect the courts, to enhance Israel’s standing in the world, to help our soldiers, the disabled, the elderly; we delivered.”
AH, THERE it was: a defense of one of the Western world’s most politically interventionist supreme courts, a fiasco that even Likud-led governments haven’t rectified. It is yet another aspect of the Yesh Atid platform that distinguishes it from the “machine of incitement and poison” otherwise known as half the Israeli populace.
After acknowledging that “we didn’t succeed at everything,” he listed a host of alleged accomplishments. It was funny, because, as he himself pointed out, none of the bills he held up as examples actually passed.
“We need to return [to the government] in order to complete the job [that we started],” he said, going on to name several goals, among them climate-change legislation, correcting the unfair situation of a “rich country with citizens who can’t [make ends meet]” and preventing the annexation of Judea and Samaria.
“They [members of the Right who want Likud to emerge victorious] mean what they say, and it’s as scary and dangerous as it sounds,” he said, with the hilarious addendum: “Something based on hatred and incitement can’t be sustained over time – not a family, not a business and certainly not a country. So, we have to decide whether we’re going to permit this to happen or stop it.”
Without blushing, he then declared that he and his voters had achieved the latter.
“We returned the government to the hands of the majority,” he claimed with customary chutzpah. Let’s remember that Yesh Atid has far fewer seats than Likud and is polling as poorly ahead of the November 1 election.
THIS IS NOT to say that yet another coalition impasse isn’t a distinct possibility. The anti-Bibi “machine of incitement and poison” is alive and kicking – with some of the small right-wing parties in the mix – and would rather rise to the top with the help of the anti-Zionist Joint (Arab) List than cede to Likud, the largest single party in the Knesset.
Lapid was correct in his assessment that he needs as many mandates as possible to forge a coalition and carry out his leftist agenda. The same applies to Netanyahu, whose right-wing worldview is unmistakably different.
Despite the proliferation of parties, it’s a binary choice and Israelis, most of whom are in the nationalist camp, need to cast their ballots accordingly.