Yair Lapid’s Short-term Memory

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Instead of berating Israelis for leaving the country, Lapid should be doing something to improve the situation in Israel.

"I came here [to Budapest] to speak before parliament about anti-Semitism and remind them how they tried to murder my father here, just because the Jews didn't have a country of their own; how they killed my grandfather in the concentration camp; how they starved my uncles; how my grandmother was saved at the last moment from the death march. I have little patience for people who are willing to throw into the garbage the only country the Jews have, because it's more comfortable in Berlin." Thus wrote Finance Minister Yair Lapid on his Facebook page earlier this week, in response to a Channel 10 report about Israelis who have migrated overseas due to the high cost of living in Israel.

The impatient finance minister is the same one who asked the Israeli public to wait patiently for two years until he settles his debt and keeps his election commitment to improve the economic situation.

When it was seeking public support before the last elections, Lapid’s Yesh Atid party claimed it represented Israelis groaning under the burden of making a living and anxious about their survival. "My brother slaves," Lapid called them. Nine months after his election, the same Israelis are still looking for a better economic future. Some of them don't believe that the government of which Lapid is a member is capable of providing it.

The social protest that erupted in the summer of 2011 was a reflection of the distress experienced by the many people who can’t make a dignified living. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets, precisely because of the high cost of living and because, even though they work, they cannot buy basic vital services, such as housing and education, for themselves and their children.

It appears that Lapid, who was carried to power on the protest wave, doesn't understand the hardship experienced by the public that sent him to the Knesset. He is duplicating the same outrageous statements as that made by Yitzhak Rabin made in 1976, when he called those who left Israel "a fall-out of weaklings." Israelis are free to decide where they and their children live. There is no need to chastise them for trying to make their lives more comfortable - certainly not to use the memory of the Holocaust to do so.

Rather than denouncing those who choose to leave Israel, Lapid would do better to take action about improving the situation. He is the finance minister and the party he heads has 19 Knesset seats. That empowers him to take steps to change the economic reality, not only complain about it in social networks.

The finance minister must advance economic reforms that reduce the cost of living, while never forgetting that advancing the peace process is critical to Israel's security and economic survival. Instead of denouncing Israelis for leaving the country, the government should instead be striving to create a state based on justice and equality; one whose people will want - and even be proud - to live in.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid. Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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