Yair Lapid, the Populist 'Defender' of Israel

Lapid changes roles and opinions as if they were socks. Once he was in the center, now he’s a confirmed right-winger, even the extreme right.

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Yair Lapid in Rosh Ha’ayin, February 22, 2015.
Yair Lapid in Rosh Ha’ayin, February 22, 2015.Credit: Nir Keidar
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Yair Lapid is a very busy man. On Thursday evening, for example, he spoke with “300 citizens of Migdal Ha’emek” about “why the state needs to be taken to a different place.” Due to this urgent, essential act, he didn’t see last week’s episode of “Uvda” (“Fact”) and thus couldn’t weigh in on Rehavam Ze’evi. “I can’t comment, Danny, on something I didn’t see,” Lapid told Danny Kushmaro on Channel 2’s “Ulpan Shishi” Friday night, positive that someone would buy the nonsense he peddled.

Lapid the brave didn’t dare express an opinion on the personal testimonies of brutal rape by the former general and cabinet minister who was assassinated in 2001, lest he anger someone on the right. But nine months ago he was swift to express his opinion about “something I didn’t see.” He called for the establishment to support for the execution carried out by Binyamin Brigade commander Col. Israel Shomer. Shomer shot and killed a Palestinian teen who was fleeing the scene after throwing rocks, and then slunk away. Then, Lapid didn’t care about the details. Three bullets at a fleeing teen, that’s his Zionism; “that’s what’s Israeli” to him, to use his own catchphrase. Like most Israelis, Lapid will cheer any Arab-killer in uniform.

I mentioned this in my last op-ed (“Israeli army giving its soldiers license to kill” April 14) and Lapid, who is busy now not only with Migdal Ha’emek but also with “defending Israel the world over” — here sending a WhatsApp message to an aide to the mayor of London, there in a photo-op with a ridiculous sign in Geneva, and even “being interviewed on the BBC, CNN and TF1” — did not miss the opportunity and attacked Haaretz over the piece.

Lapid is a good student. He saw his spiritual mentors, Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump, attacking the media, and he wants to copy the big boys. After the “Zoabis,” the tallit, his wife Lihi Lapid’s challah ceremony and his assault on Breaking the Silence, it’s time to take on the media. It’s right there in “Populism for Dummies.”

A journalist for many years, Lapid knows the media. “Haaretz went off the rails.” He won’t let such things into his home (but nevertheless managed to read it). Lapid knows the op-ed on the brigade commander was signed, and did not necessarily reflect the opinion of the newspaper, but never mind that now. This is about him going upward, ever upward.

His response was very amusing, full of side-splitting jokes: Lapid as skit-writer, a man whose columns were once stuck onto refrigerator doors throughout Israel, is going to teach Haaretz about journalism. As Israel’s self-appointed foreign minister, he said he “defends Israel,” that the Israeli army “is the most moral army in the world.” He said: “I set aside my own pride, but not the dignity of the IDF’s soldiers.” (This from the man who began attacking Haaretz right after the paper wounded his pride over his falsified academic career.) He’s a barrel of laughs. But if you take Lapid seriously for a minute, as the polls show, the smile fades.

This joke is ballooning to near-monstrous proportions. In a political vacuum, where almost anyone can rise to power, there’s no point in asking how he managed to get so far.

Lapid changes roles and opinions as if they were socks. Once he was in the center, now he’s a confirmed right-winger, even the extreme right, as in his remarks about Haaretz. “Such words must not be written,” ruled Lapid in his latest costume, that of Baruch Marzel. Why not? Because Lapid said so.

Haaretz of course does not need Lapid’s seal of approval, nor does the undersigned. Lapid can read what he considers journalism – a weekly for women, one for men, Israel Hayom or Yedioth Ahronoth, the paper that’s behind his political career. But there’s one meeting I won’t forget. It was years ago, before Lapid was Lapid. It was visiting day at Israel Scouts summer camp at Hazorea Forest, and Lapid introduced me to his son. “Unlike your father, this is a real journalist,” Lapid told his son, smiling his winning smile. Which of us has changed since then?

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