A Year of Political Star Yair Lapid Has Been a Year of Failure

What reforms have Israel's finance minister and his party colleague Jacob Perry undertaken?

Hi Yair, how’s it going? I hope you enjoyed the fancy 70th birthday party for Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry from your Yesh Atid party. I’m the guy you gave 5 shekels to at the entrance. I wanted to tell you a few things; it’s a shame you ran away so fast.

First of all, I wanted to thank you. Not everyone gives. Perry, the birthday boy, received 600,000 shekels ($170,450) from Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot last week. You also once worked for a bank. In any case, while you were celebrating, I thought about a couple of things and wanted to share them with you. Things about justice, not charity.

You certainly must have met someone there from the Ofer family, the owners of Mizrahi-Tefahot. A decade ago Perry replaced Idan Ofer, the owner of the Israel Corporation, as chairman of the bank. You also worked for the Ofer family once upon a time, at Channel 2.

I suddenly remembered the Zim shipping company the Ofers control, which can’t pay back its debts to retirees and foreign banks. I don’t know if you noticed that there was a Knesset discussion last week on the haircut at Zim.

That is an insane management failure. I know, a committee headed by your ministry’s director general is working on the problem, but in the meantime we’re losing money. I know all the details, Yair. I might be poor, but I’m not an idiot.

To make a long story short, a Finance Ministry official attended the discussion on Zim. She used all the phrases we’ve been hearing for years from the ministry’s capital markets division: “There’s nothing to worry about; it’s only a small fraction of the money,” “whoever wants yields must take risks.” Everything’s hunky dory as far as she’s concerned.

But I’m shocked that this is how the government has responded for years to every discussion on market failures. And in general, it seems that you in the government don’t care too much about the Knesset’s oversight. Why should you be careful about corporate governance at companies you supervise like ailing Hadassah or the banks?

And now your friend Perry received this bonus a year and a half after you pulled him out of Mizrahi-Tefahot and into politics – and for a job only for 60% of his time – just as your ministry started discussing the sale of the state’s shares in Bank Yahav to Mizrahi. Doesn’t this bother anyone? And Perry has already made many millions at Cellcom and other companies, and he receives a very nice military pension.

After the discussion on Zim ended, there was a Knesset debate on private medical services at public hospitals – the medical services I’ll never receive, unlike all those you celebrated with, who not only have insurance and money but also connections.

The truth is, it seems you’ve screwed up, Yair. Almost a year in the government and what has become of your promises? And you tell us that cynicism has returned – really? Do you remember what you wrote in your last column for Yedioth Ahronoth? “Where’s the money? In the defense budget. Where’s the money? With the tycoons. Where’s the money? In the cellular company dividends. With the bank executives. In the settlements.”

So what has come of all this? What socioeconomic reforms have you and Perry started pushing through? Have you dealt with the thieving banking system, the crazy executive salaries, the defense budget, the country’s outskirts? What solidarity can you show with the middle class? And what about us, the poor?

Do you remember the criticism of the previous Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who made a pilgrimage to tycoon Nochi Dankner’s office? But today it’s much worse. Dankner is going bankrupt and is suspected of serious white-collar crimes, and you dance with him at parties.

And also with his cousin Dan Dankner, a convicted criminal, and with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, another convicted criminal. At least it can be said in your defense that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was there, too.

Two and a half years after the social protests and there’s no new politics and no future. And what message do you and your friends, Yesh Atid’s MKs, have for young people? That if you make the right connections you’ll go far?

Look at this Yair, I with my 5 shekels am richer than Nochi, who owes hundreds of millions. But I’m out here in the cold and he’s warming up with some of the bankers who approved his huge loans.

After that he’ll get in his cool car and return home to his huge house in Herzliya Pituah. Each of his children owns a pretentious home. You there in the upper thousandth of the 1%, even when you go bankrupt you have no idea what it means to be poor.

In any case, only a year has passed. You have three more years in the current government. It’s not too late to change direction. It won’t be easy, and that party doesn’t portend good things. But I’m telling you Yair, your voters expected something else. You owe them.

Emil Salman