Opening Salvo: Yair Lapid Makes First Foray Into Political Oratory

Lapid lashes out against ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs who 'live at our expense' and don't serve in the military.

In his first official speech since announcing his entry into politics, media personality Yair Lapid presented on Thursday what he said were his fundamental concerns for Israel and offered suggestions for steering the country in a better direction.

Speaking at a business conference in Eilat, Lapid named three things he said have "stolen the state away from the public."

Lapid, in his first official address since announcing his entry into politics, on Feb. 16, 2012.

The first, he said, was Israel's "rotten" political system that has become a "corrupt game." Lapid then lashed out against ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs who "live at our expense" and don't serve in the military.

"This year we crossed the red line: 50% of first-grade students were either Haredi or Arab. "The Palestinians don't need to battle us," Lapid said. "They can make a cup of coffee, light a cigarette and wait 12 years, and the Zionist state will crumble from within."

"The third thing," said Lapid, "is corruption." He then referred to the black market, which he said amounts to 25% of GDP and deprives the state of NIS 20 billion every 20 years.

"Four things need to be done," Lapid told the audience in the southern resort town on the Red Sea. First, the voting threshold for Knesset representation must be increased to 6%, the minimum majority vote in the Knesset to dissolve the government must be raised to 66% and the law must be changed to stipulate that the head of the biggest party in the Knesset is always the prime minister. "This will cause voting for larger parties to cease to be the hostage of coalitions," Lapid said.

Second, the core education curriculum must be taught in all schools, including ones for ultra-Orthodox children. "We are not against [Haredim], but we can't keep carrying them on our backs," he said.

Third, said Lapid, "we must fight the corruption of the black market and of the authorities."

In his fourth and final suggestion Lapid proposed creating "engines of growth" that go beyond the technology sector.

Lapid also expressed disgust at the way Israeli tycoons earn fortunes and request tax breaks. "We must make sure those tycoons are punished afterward by the financial markets. Big businesses shouldn't sleep at night if they have debts, exactly like small businesses."

As he drew his speech to a close, Lapid spoke of his pride and belief in the future that is open to Israel and its people. "I believe there is no other place in the world where we could feel good. Because after we finish moaning, we know that here there are the most amazing people in the world, and I have no intention of throwing my hands in the air and giving up on our country."