Opinion

Yair Lapid Will Never Reach the Top of the Pyramid

In throwing the government a lifeline by voting for the ultra-Orthodox army draft bill, Lapid broke the first rule of what it means to be in the opposition

Lawmakers Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni talk in the Knesset, Jerusalem
\ REUTERS

He doesn’t have that killer look in his eye. He doesn’t have that lust for power. He says that he wants to be prime minister, but his actions prove the opposite. So there is no way he will reach the top of the pyramid. He could be a minister, even a deputy prime minister, but never number one.

The role of the opposition is to strive to replace the government at any moment and in any situation. Not to bask in any honor, but to seek to implement a different approach, and as soon as possible. Which is why it was so astounding to see Yair Lapid and his 10 dwarfs vote unanimously in favor of the draft-dodging law and thus throw Benjamin Netanyahu a valuable lifeline.

Lapid explained that even if the enlistment law would have failed to pass its first reading this week, the government would not have fallen. Maybe not right away, but it certainly would have been weakened. The disputes would have intensified, the wounds would have become gaping, until the Gerrer Rebbe would have instructed Yaakov Litzman to resign, and the rest of the haredim would have followed suit, and then the government would have fallen. We’ve seen it happen before; when you remove one brick from the coalition wall, it cracks and eventually falls.

Maybe somebody ought to tell Lapid why the Likud is in power. It’s not because of where it stands on diplomatic issues, or economic issues. It’s because of the fierce desire by Likud’s top members to be in power. These Likud folks are ready and willing to bite the bullet in all kinds of situations purely for the sake of being number one.

Once upon a time, in late 2000, the Haredim submitted a bill that would raise government child allowances to the inordinately high sum of 850 shekels ($233) per child per month, starting with the fifth child. The Likud, which was in the opposition then, announced it would support this insane piece of legislation. They had one objective only: to bring down Prime Minister Ehud Barak. I asked MK Ruby Rivlin how he, a devout Zionist, could support such bad, anti-Zionist legislation that would promote larger Haredi, Arab and Bedouin Arab families. Rivlin replied: “Yes it’s a bad law, but without the Haredim, we’re not in power and I want to be in power.”

Do you get this, Lapid? The Likud was a true opposition party. It understood that in order to get into power, you have to pay, but as soon as you get there, you can thoroughly change policy on countless critical matters, and that’s what counts.

But Lapid doesn’t really want power, and therefore it won’t happen. He reminds me of Tzipi Livni, who could have formed a government in late 2008 after Ehud Olmert resigned. But she wouldn’t pay the price of bringing the Haredim in. The truth is that she just didn’t have the requisite lust for power. And so she gave up her shot at being prime minister. Netanyahu had a much stronger desire for power. He paid the Haredim what he had to and formed a government in 2009. And he’s been number one ever since. And where is Livni? In the opposition.

Lapid’s vote in favor of the draft-dodging law is also a big strategic mistake. For this is the only issue on which he can totally set himself apart from the Likud. Had he come out against this bad legislation, he would also have won the support of secular soldiers who are no longer willing to die for the sake of the Haredim. But he chose to be the messiah’s donkey. The Haredim are riding him, and deriding him at the same time.

It was also quite funny to hear Lapid say that the Haredim voted against the law because they know it will lead to more Haredim enlisting and going to work. Any fool knows that the Haredim are playing a double game. They publicly opposed the law while secretly doing their utmost to see that it passed. For them it’s ideal – it would allow every Haredi youth to avoid military service without criminal sanctions or an effective fine.

Lapid is a good and honorable person, but in throwing the government a lifeline, he broke the first rule of what it means to be in the opposition. He showed that he hasn’t got what it takes.