Yair Lapid’s Hypocrisy on Government Waste

Yesh Atid’s self-righteous, superficial campaign against expanding the cabinet is almost as infuriating as parties' exorbitant demands for joining the coalition.

Lapid in Tel Aviv, December 24, 2014.
Tomer Appelbaum

That warrior for democracy and knight in the battle against corruption, Yair Lapid, this week petitioned the High Court of Justice against the decision to increase the number of cabinet ministers beyond 18. Thus did he open his season in the opposition, basking in his prowess as the top campaigner in Israel, as well as the weakness of the opposition’s largest faction, whose leaders cannot persuade us that they are not headed for the coalition.

The festival of Lapid and his supporters has its own set of slogans like “we’re sick of corruption,” “sellout of the state” and “the public is an idiot so the public pays,” and many other clichés the purpose of which is to fill the ideological or factual vacuum. Lapid is going to war against the added annual cost of every minister and deputy minister – approximately 2.5-3 million shekels and 1.5 million shekels respectively. Assuming that two ministers and six deputy ministers are added, the annual cost tallies up to 15 million shekels (about $3.8 million).

Even if we add other costs to this sum – assuming that every minister of unknown affairs will create jobs for his or her cronies – it will cost much less than most of the funding the parties are demanding for signing up with the coalition. These include so many expensive, infuriating clauses – firstly the money given just like that to MKs of United Torah Judaism and Shas (420 million shekels a year) – that it dwarfs the cost of the additional ministers. The latter is closer to the cost of the esoteric clause “funding for Gush Katif heritage” – 15 million shekels given as an signing bonus to Habayit Hayehudi.

MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) managed this year in the Knesset Finance Committee to discover the sum of 1.2 billion shekels that went to settlements. Lapid signed off on that money, and so did his representatives on the Finance Committee. Of what consequence is the money over which Lapid is going to the High Court now, compared to the transfer of such massive funding then, whose amount may have been even higher than what Shaffir discovered? Or compared to clauses like “grants to young settlements,” “grant for stronger society,” overfunding of local authorities in the West Bank settlements and other such clauses, along with continual transfers of funding to the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, with is identified with construction and expansion of the settlements?, That’s the same Settlement Division that Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber, in an opinion paper, prohibited the state from contracting with because the division has been illegally setting policy.

What is this pointless chatter about transparency and fairness, when Yesh Atid did not fight with the opposition and with coalition MK Tzipi Livni to impose the Freedom of Information Law on the WZO Settlement Division? And why did Yesh Atid MK support Meretz chairwoman MK Zehava Galon’s efforts toward that goal in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee only in its last meeting in May, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had already gone into its murky, conflicted stage and was faltering toward its end?

What validity is there in the calls for a war on the waste of public funds when, while Yesh Atid was a member of the coalition, it rubber-stamped a sectorial policy that does not conform to the principles it boasts? Wheeling and dealing are an ugly, inseparable part of politics, but Yesh Atid’s self-righteous, superficial campaign is almost as infuriating as the coalition’s robbery.

The new government is going to be a bad one. It will deepen the hold on the territories and the country’s diplomatic isolation, while promoting religion over democracy. Indeed, it is not by chance that the addition of ministers – even though Yesh Atid opposes the amendment to the law it initiated in the last Knesset, which is an important symbol in that faction’s limited legacy – is a casus belli for Lapid. In this case, as in the battle of his life waged over zero VAT, he proves that he knows how to coin a catchy slogan. Unfortunately, this merchandise is always in demand. Campaign after campaign.