If I were Lapid I would demand the finance portfolio
Yesh Atid's leader would also do well to examine why he won the support of the middle class and the well-off but not Mizrahim from low-income towns.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would certainly be pleased with myself and the organization I built over the past year, which succeeded in capitalizing on my abilities to the max and capturing enough support to catapult my party to victory.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would explain to my minions the greatness of our victory under adverse conditions. After all, we were up against two parties competing for the same voters and faced the constant threat that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would divert the public discourse to the subject of security (or Jerusalem or Iran).
If I were Yair Lapid, I would be worried, and not just because of the great responsibility I mentioned in my split-screen speech. I would be worried because I would understand that Yesh Atid's success takes us back to the past, to some extent.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would recall my speeches about the beginnings of an Israeli era of togetherness, about how Israelis no longer wish to be divided into groups with exceedingly narrow interests that seek to take whatever they can get from the silent majority. And then I'd look at the election results and discover that my own party's voters constitute a tribe of their own, and that the Israel of 2013 is more divided and fragmented than ever before – perhaps more than any other democratic country in the world.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would be pleased with the diversity of the Yesh Atid ticket. It has Ashkenazim, Mizrahim, people from the center of the country and the outlying areas; it has secular and religious Israelis, men and women. But at the same time, I would wonder why my constituency is not similarly diverse.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would be happy that, even in areas where Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu won, Yesh Atid beat Labor and received strong support. But I would ask why, after a year of messages about unity, my appeal was limited to such a specific segment of the population. I would check the numbers by polling station, by neighborhood and by city, and discover that the great majority of my 550,000 voters belong to the same socioeconomic class: financially secure Ashkenazim.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would try to build a real relationship with groups that didn't vote for me. I would examine, for example, why Yesh Atid won 29 percent of the votes in Caesarea but only 7.5 percent right across the highway in neighboring Or Akiva – less than Shas or Habayit Hayehudi, and very far from the 46 percent that Likud won over there.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would be happy we conquered Kfar Sava, Herzliya, Ra'anana, Tel Aviv, Givatayim and Ramat Gan (and the even more upper-crust cities of Savyon and Kfar Shmaryahu and Rishpon), but at the same time would check why we lost in lower-income areas like Bat Yam, Holon, Be'er Sheva, Ramle and Ashdod. I'd be concerned about our terrible weakness in Sderot, Netivot, Ofakim and other low-income towns, including Dimona, the hometown of No. 4 on the ticket, Dimona Mayor Meir Cohen.
I would delve deep into the numbers and find that in poorer areas I got votes mainly in the neighborhoods built for the wealthier populace – like in Yavneh, Rosh Ha'ayin, Gedera and Or Yehuda. And I would tell my supporters that even though we won, it's high time to show solidarity with the weaker elements of society, who didn't vote for us.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would work toward linking the pay of Knesset members and cabinet ministers to the minimum wage. I would let the first female Ethiopian Knesset member, Pnina Tamano-Shata (No. 14 on my list), deal with the issue of salaries for bank managers, rather than former Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot chairman Jacob Perry (No. 5 on the list).
If I were Yair Lapid, I would do my sociology homework and learn that the country's social fabric extends far beyond the middle class – there are also the elderly, poor, working people struggling to make ends meet, migrant workers, minorities – and that social disparities result from discrimination. I would find out that the Mapainik term "Sephardim" I mentioned in the victory speech is extinct and that they've long been calling themselves Mizrahim. I would learn that what I call "ethnicity" signifies social rupture, and is not just a rhetorical device.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would promote Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich's bill proposing that Israel impose an inheritance tax, since the waning middle class would in any case not be affected by it.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would be pleased by my second public appearance since the election, when I said that I wouldn't take part in attempting to stop Netanyahu from forming a government. But I would also be extremely sorry for my implicit delegitimization of the entire Arab community. I would understand I screwed up and try to make amends. I had no reason to praise Hanin Zuabi, but it would have been better to reach out to Israeli Arabs rather than alienate them, even if none of them voted for me.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would demonstrate a spirit of reconciliation and hope and promise a positive outlook in relations with the Arab minority as well as the neighboring countries – something much further than what the Netanyahu government gave us.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would demand the Finance Ministry, not the coveted Foreign Ministry. I would recall the political love song written by a friend from my Maariv days, Johnathan Geffen: "If love were a country, I would be the foreign minister: traveling around the world, hat in hand, while you sleep, I must rush off now." True, I would tell myself, the situation isn't easy, either in Israel or the rest of the world, and NIS 15 billion need to be cut and taxes raised. But I'm in for the long haul, after all.
If I were Finance Minister Yair Lapid, I would explain to the public that the hole in the budget, for which Netanyahu and Yuval Steinitz are responsible, was made by the previous government and that the situation requires some belt tightening because of the global financial crisis. People would understand that everyone needs to shoulder the burden. I would speak about two or three difficult years but promise that things can turn out wonderful here if we fix what needs fixing. I would close a deal with Netanyahu on cutting the defense budget, I would set off in search of the other pits swallowing up the middle class's money, and I would implement economic reforms in the business sector and civil service.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would begin a round of meetings with economists and social leaders and would remain in close contact with them, as opposed to several of my predecessors, who instead nurtured relationships with tycoons mistakenly referred to as financial leaders. I would invite economics professors like Momi Dahan and Avi Ben-Bassat so I could learn about the main problems facing Israel (such as inequality), and the terrible way this country tries to solve them through the budget. I would also meet with former Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, to hear how real reform is created and how to ignore the pressure to retain the status quo.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would start rebuilding the Finance Ministry from scratch and people it with first-rate officials, since it was terribly weakened during the last Knesset term. I would form a coalition with the governor of the Bank of Israel, the brilliant and apolitical Stanley Fischer. I would recall that Netanyahu also entered the Finance Ministry at the height of an economic crisis, in 2003, which is actually what brought him so much esteem and turned him into "Mr. Economics" until he himself undermined the title.
If I were Yair Lapid, I would also demand that Yesh Atid control the interior and education ministries, where the darkness overcame the light over the past few years. And I wouldn't forget my campaign slogan: "We came to institute change."
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