For All His Sins, Yair Lapid Is Not Corrupt

Benjamin Netanyahu is focusing his efforts on an attempt to vilify Yair Lapid. I have a lot of criticism for Lapid, but I have never found a fault in his incorruptibility

File photo: Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid at a party confab in September, 2018.
Moti Milrod

Dan Margalit wrote an opinion piece in 2006 called “Olmert is not corrupt.” I have mentioned it a few times, Margalit didn’t like it. Still, truly corrupt people have an interest in all politicians being portrayed as corrupt. If everybody is corrupt, then no one is corrupt.

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Benjamin Netanyahu is focusing his efforts on an attempt to vilify Yair Lapid. I have a lot of criticism for Lapid, for his repugnant attempt to dress up as something else, more right-wing, a hater of leftists, sensitive to Jewish tradition. When Lapid sharply attacks human rights organizations, it is impossible not to feel one’s skin crawl before such profound cynicism.

Still, one thing I have never found in Lapid: A fault in his incorruptibility. Almost cruelly, Lapid cut his very friendly ties with Olmert (he used to call him “Abbaleh”) and with Shlomi Lahiani in the wake of their trials.

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The height of absurdity was reached in regard to Arnon Milchan, who had employed Lapid for some 20 years before he became finance minister. Milchan sought to meet with Lapid about the so-called Milchan Law, which gave a tax incentive to businessmen moving their activity and capital to Israel. Milchan wanted to extend the law. Lapid met with him, heard his request, passed it on to his officials, they recommended rejecting it, and Lapid accepted the recommendation. It was a lesson in good government.

Somehow, this was translated by Netanyahu into “If it’s not Bibi, there’s no investigation.” Netanyahu accepted gifts from Milchan worth hundreds of thousands of shekels; by comparison, Lapid sent Milchan back a bouquet of flowers he had sent him on the occasion of his appointment. Netanyahu tried to help Milchan in a host of ways; Lapid informed Milchan that his request was denied. In what world are they equals on this score?

The police gave a bizarre briefing to reporters on this issue, describing Lapid as a “key witness” in the affair. In fact, Lapid was not a key witness. In another police briefing, reporters were told that there was a “large gap” between what Lapid had said publicly on the submarine affair and his testimony to the police. This was another false assertion. Lapid never claimed he had inside information about the affair. He was involved at a certain point, when he got a discount from the German government on the missile ships.

On the Egyptian submarine affair, he what others were saying, and he testified about this to the police. In public, he insisted repeatedly that Netanyahu should be investigated in the matter, and this was popularly interpreted to mean he was calling for Netanyahu to be investigated as a suspect. It’s totally legitimate for Netanyahu supporters to criticize Lapid, but what’s the police’s excuse? Where is the “gap” in Lapid’s statements? Why was it so urgent for police to badmouth him to reporters at two press briefings?

Now Netanyahu has a new line of attack – Lapid’s meetings with Arnon Mozes of Yedioth Ahronoth. Lapid does need to explain how many times he met with Mozes, and if any connection was made between funds in Yesh Atid-controlled ministries that went to Yedioth, and Yedioth’s treatment of Lapid. Lapid’s explanation, that the meetings were just like any others between a publisher and the press, does not hold water. Lapid’s relationship with Mozes is not just like others, especially if they met so many times (associates of Lapid said there were only four or five meetings).

Nevertheless, even when the attorney general had in its possession a recording of a conversation between Netanyahu and Mozes that was clearly about bribery, it took months until an investigation was opened. You don’t open investigations over question marks and journalists’ suspicions, just as no investigation was ever opened over the nature of the prime minister’s relationship with Sheldon Adelson and the enormous contribution of Israel Hayom to Netanyahu the politician. There is much more to investigate in the 10 years of the Israel Hayom story than what happened in the Lapid-Mozes meetings.

The media tends to say who is corrupt. These days, we should also say who is not corrupt.

Lapid is not corrupt.