Yair Lapid represents Israeli politics' lost sanity

MIDDLE ISRAEL: Yair Lapid embodies the morality, humility, balance and sanity that were lost en route to the political abyss that Israel has reached.

YESH ATID Party head Yair Lapid addresses a conference in Jerusalem last week. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
YESH ATID Party head Yair Lapid addresses a conference in Jerusalem last week.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
‘We have a king – with a crown, a staff, and a mantle” sang the enamored masses in the 1992 theatrical hit Herzl, King of the Jews.
Though he wrote the lyrics for that musical, Yair Lapid now faces regal enthusiasm’s inversion, as many ask whether he can be prime minister. Well, the answer is yes, he can, and moreover: in terms of his record, agenda and character, he is the most suitable candidate to succeed Benjamin Netanyahu.
The man who was almost 50 when he became a politician has built in the course of nine years a party that has endured the test of time. Other so-called atmospheric parties came and went – Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, Ariel Sharon’s Kadima, and the list goes on – but Lapid’s Yesh Atid sank roots. At the same time, the party remained removed from corruption, and loyal to its ideals.
Meanwhile, Lapid earned valuable experience. As minister of finance, he was actually a lot better than Netanyahu alleges, having inherited from Netanyahu’s previous government a NIS 40 billion deficit, which Lapid then offset.
At the same time, Lapid was a member of the security cabinet. He thus saw from within how top secret issues of war and peace are handled, besides learning how ministries work, how parliamentary committees are run, how budgets are passed and how laws are cooked. That’s exactly the background Benny Gantz so tragically lacked.
Lapid also brings a diplomatic edge that the generals who overtook his ticket lacked. As a columnist, screenwriter, author, playwright and talk-show host, he knows the world, and his media savvy is top-notch. In fact, Lapid is as telegenic and eloquent as Netanyahu. His English is good, and he will represent us abroad a lot better than prime ministers like Ehud Barak, Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir.
No less relevant, maybe more – is Lapid’s agenda.
UNLIKE his image, Lapid is not anti-religious. He has no agenda at all with Modern Orthodoxy, and his faction always included observant lawmakers. What he challenges is Likud’s alliance with ultra-Orthodoxy, and its exorbitant social price.
The plague brought this deal to new peaks of intolerability, when the same rabbis who nurture draft dodging also condoned violations of pandemic restrictions, as well as preferential passage for their followers through Ben-Gurion Airport.
Lapid’s demands on this front are what most Israelis demand of ultra-Orthodoxy: equality.
That does not make him the “leftist” Netanyahu makes of him. Lapid is a centrist, one who, unlike Netanyahu, never gave land to the Palestinians, and who – like most Israelis, including Netanyahu – would fight Arabs who want war, and would compromise with Arabs who want peace.
Lastly and most crucially, Lapid is a genuine representative of Israel’s broad middle class. He understands its concerns and truly cares for its priorities. That is why he wants small government, that is why he would never in his life create a cyclops like the 43-member Netanyahu-Gantz cabinet, and that is why he would seek less sectarian spending, lower taxation, and a stronger citizenry.
Beyond his experience and agenda, Lapid would end our age of political megalomania.
GIDEON Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett are sadly emulating Netanyahu’s self-celebration. Lapid, by contrast, avoids talking in the first person, thus displaying respect for his running mates, and reflecting the teamwork he has cultivated since establishing his party nine years ago.
Lapid’s modesty is also apparent in his appointments and work relations, which are the inversion of Netanyahu’s woeful record on these fronts.
Netanyahu repeatedly turned allies into enemies. It happened with ministers of his, like Kahlon, Moshe Ya’alon, Sa’ar, Benny Begin and Dan Meridor, and it happened with staffers like Avigdor Liberman, who was director-general of Netanyahu’s PM Office, Bennett who was Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Ayelet Shaked, who was his bureau chief, Yoaz Hendel, who was his media adviser, and Zvi Hauser, who was his cabinet secretary.
While Netanyahu chased away talented people and surrounded himself with anonymous vulgarians like Mickey Zohar, Dudi Amsalem and Osnat Mark, Lapid surrounded himself with accomplished leaders, from scholars like Ruth Calderon, social activists like Karin Elharar, and educators like Rabbi Shai Piron, to police brass like former Jerusalem commander Mickey Levy, IDF generals like Orna Barbivai and Elazar Stern, and spooks like former deputy head of the Mossad Ram Ben-Barak.
Lapid, in short, will replace Netanyahu’s Byzantine court with a meritocracy. Having had a successful career prior to his shift to politics, he doesn’t feel threatened by talent. Judging by his recruitment policy, and by the way his faction works, there is reason to believe he will deploy the good people that surround him in order to collectively restore the sanity that the Netanyahu years have come to contrast.
This is besides a Lapid premiership’s most urgent and glaring benefit – a civic renaissance.
Netanyahu’s response to his indictment has been a sweeping attack on the prosecution, courts, media and police, a strategy that is a tragedy for him and a catastrophe for us. As prime minister, Lapid would team with Sa’ar and Bennett to put an end to this civic apocalypse.
Lapid’s attitude toward moral governance was made plain when he forced the resignation of Yesh Atid lawmaker and former head of Shin Bet Yaakov Peri, after revelations that he lied about his failure to serve in the IDF. How distant is this high moral bar from Netanyahu’s original sin, the unprecedented appointment of a convicted criminal as a minister in the government of Israel.
So yes, Yair Lapid embodies the moral impartiality, mental balance, and personal humility that Benjamin Netanyahu abandoned while leading us to moral meltdown and political limbo. That is why Yair Lapid can, and should, be Israel’s next prime minister.
The writer’s bestselling Mitzad Ha’ivelet Ha’yehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sefarim, 2019), is a revisionist history of the Jewish people’s leadership from antiquity to modernity.