Israel Doesn't Need a Movie Star, It Needs a Leader

Tom Cruise defeats the bad guys in all his films and remains a big star. Lapid only has one chance. The question is whether in addition to being the country's darling he has what a strong leader needs these days.

Hollywood star Tom Cruise has what is popularly known as a low-slung butt. Or to be more precise, short legs and a broad and muscular chest. That didn't prevent Cruise from being married (until his divorce) to beautiful actress Nicole Kidman. At the Academy Awards, she looked 20 centimeters taller than him. Still, Cruise is a popular action movie star, and the defect called short legs isn't visible on the big screen.

I recall this detail because Yair Lapid suffers from a similar syndrome: a broad masculine chest and the muscular arms of a professional boxer, relative to his height. In many of his appearances on the small screen, viewers see the top part of his body - whether as a presenter in the Bank Hapoalim ads or in the entertainment programs he starred in.

Viewers love his sweet and captivating smile and the way he flatters his interviewees. I don't remember him ever attacking an interviewee. After he announced his retirement from television last Friday, he was photographed arriving home in a masculine leather jacket with a Harley Davidson logo, one of the most masculine and prestigious luxury motorcycles.

As a television star he had a million-dollar smile. Even when reporting on the worst news he didn't assume a severe expression and didn't mutter, like some of his colleagues, that "it's terrible." Although he's a scion of the Tomislav Lampel (Tommy Lapid) dynasty, he doesn't have the killer instinct of his hot-tempered father - unless behind his niceness he's hiding character traits that will come to light over time, when he achieves real political status. Being a cutie-pie isn't enough for diving into the jungle of Israeli politics. But there's no question he must have something if so many people think he's suited for politics.

This isn't the first time an outsider is sneaking into the polling booth between elections - whether it was Dash, Shmuel Flatto-Sharon, the Pensioners Party, Tzomet, Telem and of course Shinui - which lasted for two terms. The barb from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's people about Lapid's move was not long in coming - it immediately followed Lapid's announcement: "Lapid has no reason to rush, the elections will not be moved up." Which means Bibi plans to continue serving for almost two more years. Is it possible Bibi's afraid of him?

The rumors that Lapid would enter politics began a long time ago. But the fact that the official announcement generated headlines and a wave of opinion polls in Lapid's favor prove how tired and disappointed the people are with our current leaders. At the moment Lapid is collecting dividends from his status as the country's darling. It pays off. At least in the surveys. At least now.

Unlike him, MK Shelly Yachimovich, for example, an outstanding journalist and interviewer, chose the tough path of joining Labor and focusing on social issues, until she became the party's leader. Unlike Lapid, she didn't try to ingratiate herself with the voters, she fought for her status the hard way, in internal elections. A former senior television executive says that although Lapid is made of good stuff, his mistake is that he aspires to become prime minister right away. The pretension of running to save the nation, in the culture of the "Big Brother" reality show, will infuriate 80 percent of the MKs.

Leading figures such as Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres traveled a long and difficult road before becoming prime minister. The former television executive predicts that despite all the headlines, Lapid can expect a long road, too. Social welfare will not play a key role on his agenda, since he himself is linked to the moneyed class. True, he's cute, he's easy to love. But he would do better to join an existing party whose policy is acceptable to him - Kadima, for example - instead of forming a slate that will be neither here nor there. He doesn't have his father's fighting spirit.

Some people who are enthusiastic about Lapid's move probably have no idea where he's leading them. Many support him not because of his personality or muscles, but because they don't believe in our current politicians. Not Defense Minister Ehud Barak, not Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, not the rabbis and especially not Bibi.

Tom Cruise defeats the bad guys in all his films and remains a big star. Lapid only has one chance. The question is whether in addition to being the country's darling he has what a strong leader needs these days.