Lapid’s civil-war incitement won’t work - opinion

Lapid, Gantz and the rest of the “anybody but Bibi” politicians and pundits have been doubling down on the very behavior responsible for their poor showing at the ballot box.

 Israeli Prime Minister and Head of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on December05, 2022. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Israeli Prime Minister and Head of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on December05, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The cat’s out of the bag. Israel’s outgoing caretaker prime minister, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid – like most members of his crumbled coalition – is no more of a so-called “centrist” than he is a healer of societal rifts.

On the contrary, his self-described “change” government, which was squarely defeated on November 1 by the Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu-headed opposition, has embarked on a campaign to foment civil war. The effort will fail as badly as his bid to remain at the helm and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s attempt to replace him at it.

There’s a reason that their crew lost the election to the nationalist camp. Yet, instead of waking up to it, Lapid, Gantz and the rest of the “anybody but Bibi” politicians and pundits have been doubling down on the very behavior responsible for their poor showing at the ballot box.

Lapid, Gantz and co. double down on what made them fail

Having flopped at vilifying Netanyahu, they went after Otzma Yehudit Party leader MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, now slated to become the national security minister. Their latest target is Noam party chair Avi Maoz, whose dim view of LGBTQ parades and gay marriage provides sufficient cause to delegitimize him. That his upcoming role will include having a say in the content of extracurricular school programs makes him fair game in their eyes for no-holds-barred demonization.

 MK AVI Maoz attends a discussion in the Knesset plenum, last month. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) MK AVI Maoz attends a discussion in the Knesset plenum, last month. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Never mind that his stated plan is for parents to be informed of and fully involved in vetting material, much of which is funded by foreign NGOs with a dubious political agenda, brought into their children’s classrooms. Several municipalities have already announced, at Lapid’s urging, that they won’t cooperate with the “racist homophobe.”

When Netanyahu condemned this conduct as sedition, Lapid had a typical reaction. First, he got huffy; then, he proved Bibi right.

“There’s no limit to this man’s shamelessness,” he said on Monday at a Yesh Atid faction meeting. “If you think what I’ve been saying the last few days is seditious, you ain’t seen nothing yet; I’ve just gotten started.”

For good measure, he added, “We’re not your patsies. We’re not here solely to pay taxes and send our kids to the army.” It was a perfect example of projection, coming from the still-reigning PM who was rejected by an electorate with that exact sentiment.

But at least he retained his Knesset seat and remains the head of the second-largest party in parliament, with 24 mandates. Others on the Left side of the spectrum, while equally vociferous about shunning the government-in-formation, haven’t been so lucky. 

Gantz’s newfound National Unity Party garnered 12 seats; Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, six; the Arab parties, Ra’am and Hadash-Ta’al, five each; Labor barely made it with four, and Meretz didn’t manage to pass the threshold. 

This outcome wasn’t accidental. And those who continue to insist that the nation is split down the middle are in denial, deluding themselves or – as in the case of outgoing Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman, Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben Barak – have disdain for the public.

“So what if there were elections?” he asked rhetorically during a weekend interview with the Walla news site. “The ‘street’ is the judge?”

This particular morsel of condescension might not suffice to explain the Right’s clear victory. But it illustrates a mind-frame that accompanied the misguided policies of the Lapid-Gantz government.

Hysterical warnings from all its representatives and supporters about the imminent demise of Israeli democracy, due to a collection of politicians who emphasize the state’s Jewish identity and prioritize patriotism, are influencing liberals abroad. They’re also music to the ears of Israel’s mortal enemies.

AT HOME, however, the hyperbole is likely to have the opposite effect. As one honest left-wing TV panelist pointed out bemusedly this week, if the chattering classes don’t put a muzzle on their madness, Maoz’s popularity is going to skyrocket.

He’s correct and Maoz seems to know it. Undeterred, or perhaps buoyed, by the incessant mudslinging in his direction, the Orthodox Zionist addressed the Knesset on Wednesday by singing the Hanukkah song, “Banu Hoshech Legaresh” (“We came to drive away the darkness”). 

The ditty contained a double entendre. It was a play on the Left’s language about combating the “forces of darkness” on the religious Right; and it conveyed a message about the need to shine a light on what school children are being exposed to, frequently without parental approval or consent.

Shouts at him from foes in the plenum (“You’re dark!”) didn’t succeed at disrupting his little performance, at the end of which he expressed the hope that he’d stayed on key. More importantly, it allowed his sense of humor to highlight the lack thereof on the part of his detractors. 

One such hate-filled character with little to laugh about is Zehava Galon. The former chairwoman of Meretz returned to the scene over the summer to run in a primary election against her successor, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz. 

She won the race in August, only to escort the elitist, far-left party into oblivion less than three months later. Her stepping down at the end of this month from her leadership of the virtually defunct entity, of course, hasn’t stopped her from ranting on social media to portray relevance she doesn’t possess.

Her Twitter post on Tuesday is nevertheless worth studying, as it inadvertently illuminates the results of last month’s vote. Taking issue with the request by three MKs from Netanyahu’s Likud party that the attorney-general open an investigation into journalist/analyst Raviv Drucker for an insurrectionist article he published on Monday in Haaretz, Galon writes that they “apparently haven’t yet realized that the democratic camp doesn’t intend to curb their rapacity with appeasement.”

She goes on: “Israel is in the worst democratic and social crisis in its history, and [Drucker’s call for an unprecedented] mass protest means civil disobedience… and shifting from a state of constant defensiveness to one of attack.”

The chutzpah of her suggestion that Israelis, let alone those of her ilk, are hesitant about waging ideological battles is almost as staggering as her following distortion of reality: “We no longer have the privilege of passivity in the face of a government planning a regime revolution that will collapse Israel’s fragile liberal democracy and transfer control over the Palestinians and settlers in the territories to the settlers, which will lead to the de facto annexation of the territories…We don’t intend to walk with bowed heads or to despair, but rather to fight for our beliefs and values.”

Sadly for Galon and her fellow outraged fantasists, none of whom ever partook of the “privilege of passivity” or “walked with a bowed head,” it is precisely the Left’s “beliefs and values” – revealed repeatedly to be detrimental to Israel’s security, prosperity and, yes, peace – that the majority cannot stomach.

Lapid had his chance and blew it. His task, when the ruling coalition takes the reins, is to challenge it when he sees fit. 

It’s not to stage a revolt in the name of vague, lofty ideals that he’s better at voicing than putting into practice. The trouble is that doing the latter would entail acceptance of his current situation and tolerance for diversity.