In "The Republic," Plato writes that one danger to democracy happens when the public begins to confuse theater with politics. They both take place in the public arena, so it's easy to think they're the same thing. This is what is happening drastically right before our eyes - somewhere between the theater of the absurd and a reality show.
Act I: TV anchorman Yair Lapid enters politics. We can understand why, in light of the dissatisfaction with politicians, a knight on a white horse has arrived to save Israel from itself - impressive, well-spoken, good-looking, and of course, the son of the late Yosef Lapid. He's not a doctor or a lawyer, but to many Jewish mothers he's without doubt the ideal son-in-law.
But he's also the ultimate Israeli braggart, who talks about everything in the world but has never said anything interesting or original. All he has come up with so far are maudlin, hollow phrases that convince many "real" Israelis that they are so different from the despised ultra-Orthodox (and of course, from the Arabs ). This amounts to elegant and arrogant exclusion, verging on racism, of anyone who is not secular, Ashkenazi, educated and bourgeois. How did the senior Lapid, a partner in Benjamin Netanyahu's first government, put it? "I am a European gentleman."
The trouble is that politics is not about ratings. One must ask what Lapid brings to politics that gives him the skills to make decisions about the country's fate. He has no political or administrative experience and has never been immersed in the turmoil that is Israeli politics, whose pressures, from within and without, are some of the greatest in the world.
In his hundreds of articles and appearances, Lapid has also never said what he thinks about any of the burning questions Israel must decide on - negotiations with the Palestinians, the fate of the settlers, dealing with Europe and the Arab world, relations with the United States, the Iranian threat, and Israel's economic and social structure.
Act II: The announcement by Noam Shalit, father of recently released soldier Gilad Shalit, that he will run on the Labor Party's list in the next elections. Ostensibly, he's completely different from Lapid - introverted, modest and restrained. Not exactly. It also can't be said that he has no public experience. He led one of the most successful public campaigns in the country's history and got Netanyahu, who was initially against a deal to free Gilad Shalit, to release 1,027 prisoners for one soldier.
We can understand the personal pain of Noam Shalit and his family, but if he wants to present this as testimony to successful political experience - that takes some chutzpah. First, the strategic implications of these bizarre and lopsided prisoner exchanges are serious, and second, in retrospect, Shalit provided Netanyahu with the only move in his term that reaped him impressive political dividends.
Since Shalit is a man of values and morals, if in the next abduction the perpetrators demand the annulment of the Law of Return, he would have to agree (after all, that's included in the "everything" that would have to be done ). Many people who are impressed with Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich's integrity will have trouble voting for her if Shalit is on her list. His place, with all due respect, is at home.
Act III, which might still be waiting for us: What is to keep the winner of the reality show "Big Brother" from running in the elections? After all, all the teenagers (and some of their parents ) know who he is, and he even survived life in a well-outfitted villa. And don't we want to be a villa in the jungle? But the Israeli people deserve something better than such people who anoint themselves its leaders.
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