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The anti-Bibi Camp Was Neutered by Lapid

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid speaks at a pro-democracy protest in Tel Aviv, April 19, 2020.
Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid speaks at a pro-democracy protest in Tel Aviv, April 19, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Yair Lapid gave a good speech on Tuesday. He apologized to everyone he had convinced to vote for Benny Gantz. But Lapid is guilty of something much more serious than just his support for Gantz. He is guilty of corrupting the alternative in Israel. He is responsible for Israel having an irreplaceable prime minister, politics without an opposition and a one-idea, one-nation system of government.

Lapid is the one who turned Israeli politics into what it is today: childish, clichéd, superficial and empty. During the years he has been in politics, Lapid has put it through a process of infantilization and trivialization, which it is unlikely to recover from quickly. He is the one who emptied the idea of an alternative of any content and turned the opposition into a youth group activity, and its head into a scout troop leader.

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Lapid’s part in corrupting politics is not much smaller than that of Benjamin Netanyahu, whom everyone blames for everything. If not for Lapid, we wouldn’t have Netanyahu for eternity. Enough of the lamenting over Netanyahu alone – a prime minister with three indictments, and facing him is the eternally adolescent candidate. Why not despair?

A few days before his speech on Tuesday, Lapid posted another video clip: “We will withstand it.” The old movie theater newsreels have come back to life; the government’s information center would have been embarrassed to produce such second-rate propaganda. The leading candidate for head of the opposition promised Israelis that we will survive this.

“The coronavirus will not defeat us, because it is impossible to defeat us,” said Lapid in the whispering tone reserved for such spiritual occasions: “As long as we believe in one another – nothing can stand in our way. We are Israelis. We don’t know how to give up.” They’re back: his columns made to be cut out of the newspaper and stuck on the fridge, pandering ad nauseam. The coronavirus cried so hard: Yair doesn’t want her any more.

This is how the head of the opposition talks. This is how he has spoken for years. He posts a picture of himself from a photo-op with Joe Biden and writes: “The election in November will be between two great friends of Israel.” The world is collapsing from the mounting damage caused by Donald Trump, and Lapid sees him only as a great friend of Israel. Trump urges that Israel be corrupted even more by annexation, and the leader of the Israeli opposition has nothing to say about it.

When this is the alternative, the original is preferable. Netanyahu never stood in the center of Stockholm and shouted, “We love Israel.” At least he’s not grotesque.

Lapid’s share in the incitement against the Arabs is likewise not much smaller than Netanyahu’s, whose branding of the Joint List as “the supporters of terrorism” is the direct result of Lapid’s “Zoabis.” Lapid, we should remember, saw Defense Minister Naftali Bennett as a “brother” and joined the Netanyahu government. His Yesh Atid was, and remains, a one-man party, no less so than Likud. The emergence of hollow figures such as Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, who have never said anything about anything, is the natural continuation of the politics whose leader has been Lapid.

This is what happens when sweet smiles, winning charm and a captivating look are everything. Gantz is Lapid with a general’s stars, and of course Lapid will never apologize for that.

Take a look at the Knesset: Most of it is made up of miniscule figures in the dark, a total vacuum in the building. To a great extent, Lapid is responsible for this. The government was the smaller problem. The story is one of an endless number of MKs who are ridiculous people, small-time wheeler-dealers or cowards. Kahol Lavan split into two nothing parties, one of Gantz and one of his spiritual master Lapid, and a vacuum is all that remains.

Despite conventional wisdom, which holds that Netanyahu is guilty for everything, the collapse of the political system is also on Yesh Atid. A gang of “good ol’ boys” that met in a basement in Ramat Aviv Gimmel and hugged, traded slaps on the back and giggles, which is now telling us we only need to be nicer, one Jew to another of course, that the people are wonderful and the army is heroic, is the gang founded by Lapid. It is the gang that has brought us to our present state: Netanyahu and nothing else, not to his right, his left, in front of him or behind him.