Yair Lapid, Beyonce and beyond

As a journalist, Lapid has had the luxury of asking the questions without ever having to answer them.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
At first, yesterday’s 7 p.m. edition of “Good Evening with Guy Pines” seemed quite mundane. While the show’s title evokes images of Amsterdam’s red-light district it is in fact Israel’s most popular entertainment magazine, offering its audience an insider look at the local glitterati. It begun, as always, with the story of a former movie star turned stalker and alleged sex offender. This was followed by snapshots of Israeli models standing under waterfalls in provocative bikinis alongside images of pop superstar Beyonce Knowles being rushed into labor.
Escapism at its finest.
But the best was yet to come, for the last segment of the show proved to be the cliffhanger. Pines dramatically reported that TV personality and journalist Yair Lapid had, finally, decided to resign his post as anchor of Channel 2’s Friday night news edition and enter politics. While the journalist has supposedly been flirting with the idea for some time he has now decided to cross the Rubicon. Mr. Pines was right to call this the longest foreplay in history.
At first, it was odd to learn of Lapid’s decision from an entertainment magazine. What does Yair have to do with Beyonce? Is he godfather to her new baby? Is he the actual father? Or perhaps the pop diva is thinking of being Lapid’s running mate in the next elections? Lapid and Beyonce 2012: taking your booty one step closer to the Promised Land.
This seemed a bit farfetched.
BUT AS I watched the images of Lapid arriving at his home things started to make sense. Lapid was not greeted by reporters or political commentators. As is mostly the case with the pop diva, it was the paparazzi that waited on his front lawn. This is not due to a lack of interest in Lapid’s political aspirations but rather because he is a celebrity. One who has appeared in numerous television shows, movies and TV commercials. Hence, it was only fitting to learn about his decision from a showbiz magazine.
By entering politics Lapid will further blur the line between publicity and ability, person and persona and TV and reality. This is a process that has already taken place in the United States, a place where your onscreen character is the same as your true character. That’s how Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger became governor and Ronald Reagan became president.
Lapid’s persona is one of consensus. His weekly column appears in Yediot Aharonot, “the nation’s newspaper,” and he is the anchor for Channel 2 news, the nation’s most watched news edition. Yair’s writings appeal to the hearts of Israelis as they are filled with nostalgic and romantic images. Lapid is the quintessential Israeli.
The former anchorman also conveys a sense of intelligence and integrity. He elegantly transitions from one current event to the other. On the one hand posing a challenging question to Roni Daniel, Channel 2’s Rambo-like security commentator, while on the other hand adding to Edud Yarri’s analyses of the Arab world. Thus, Lapid appears to be a man who is verse in all aspects of Israeli life. From the IDF to the JNF, Lapid is a torch of wisdom and insight.
But that’s just the persona. We know very little about the person. As he has never run for public office or entered into a political debate his views on the issues concerning us all are unknown.
Would he support a preemptive strike against Iran? Is he in favor of negotiating a peace accord with Hamas? How does he feel about labeling right-wing activists as terrorists? As a journalist, Lapid has had the luxury of asking the questions without ever having to answer them.
Unfortunately, Lapid is expected to keep his vow of silence in the upcoming months. The elections are still some time away and he will not risk losing his status as the heart of Israeli consensus by making his political views public.
Yet this behavior is an act of blatant disrespect towards his potential voters. Israelis have the right to get to know their politicians in order to decide whether they are worthy of their vote. This includes hearing their views on the challenges facing this nation and questioning their ability to lead it. Turning mute is not an act of integrity; it is a ploy for maintaining one’s popularity.
Like Beyonce, Lapid has talked the talk. We deserve to learn if he can walk the walk.
The writer is finishing his mass media studies at Tel Aviv University. He has previously contributed to The Jerusalem Post, the +972 online magazine and on second thought magazine. His blog has been featured several times in the Israeli press.