After the past number of days in which tons of scorn have been poured over Yosef Lapid, someone has to stand up and defend him. I decided that the hostile rivalry between us should not be allowed to get in the way, so I will admit: some of Lapid's explanations about the change in his position are acceptable to me.
I agree, for example, with the argument that "only a bull doesn't change its mind." I spent the last week searching through Victor Hugo's writings for that saying, which Lapid attributes to the famous French author; so far I haven't managed to find it. But I do remember a similar phrase from Moshe Dayan, who said "only a donkey doesn't change its mind," and it is very possible that Lapid is making a mutt of things, which has long been prohibited by the rabbis going back to "don't let a bull and donkey plow together," but it is well known that Lapid and I don't live according to the strict laws of the doctrines of Moses.
My suspicion did, however, raise the odd thought that perhaps the attribution to Hugo was not meant to distract attention from the connection to Bernard Shaw, who once said about one of the oldest professions in the world that first principles are dealt with and then the question of price - but it is not proper to regard that suspicion with too much seriousness. I'm known for suffering the ailment of suspicion.
The second common denominator Lapid and I share can be found in the people that we both want to be numbered among, and Lapid even named the members of the group: Churchill, de Gaulle, Nixon, Begin. Which just goes to show that only the truly great leaders fold up their banners when the national interest is at stake. I can only express disappointment that Lapid did not discover that Churchillian greatness when I was forced to retract my words that we would never sit in the same coalition with Shas.
There's no doubt, therefore, that Lapid is more daring: he folded up his one and only flag, and I folded one of many; he retracted the explicit commitment that won him 15 seats in the Knesset, while I made that unnecessary comment - "read my lips" - only after the election results were known. His somersault backward, if you will, is far more spectacular than my clumsy acrobatics.
Lapid the Wise's statement that his party won't go very far if, as he put it, the party only rides "one horse" is also true. That horse actually carried the Shinui horseman quite powerfully; it is not every day that a party wins that number of MKs, and it is not proper to whip the loyal beast now. The Shinui leader - and with him half a million voters - will now find out how difficult it is to carry many important flags together: security and political affairs, economic and social concerns, and human rights, and clean government, and environmental affairs. It is a lot more complicated than simply hating.
The areas of agreement between Lapid and I are quite broad: he and I, for example, both support disengagement - even though for a minute I worried and remembered Bernard Shaw, when a few days ago Lapid announced that if he remains in the government he will support it, and if he moves to opposition he will oppose it.
Lapid and I also agree that Shas was corrupted and corrupts. Therefore we had no other choice but to quit Ehud Barak's government when it was expected that as education minister I hand over non-kosher funds to Shas. Nonetheless, the justice minister should explain - with the same success he explained his positions until now - why he cannot sit with the corrupt Shas but can with the corrupt Likud. Is the evil of a ruling party less dangerous than that of one of its satellites? The explanation no doubt will be forthcoming and will even convince Avraham Poraz.
All that's left is to hope that with all that enthusiasm, the one flag is not replaced by another solitary flag: if it goes on like that, we may yet see in the next election a party that makes breaking its promise to the voters a slogan for responsibility, wisdom and courage, and it will win 15 seats in the Knesset, at the very least.
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