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There's No Hope for Change With Lapid as PM

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A Likud election campaign billboard showing a portrait of Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Yair Lapid, in Ramat Gan, Israel March 2021.
A Likud election campaign billboard showing a portrait of Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Yair Lapid, in Ramat Gan, Israel March 2021.Credit: AP Photo/Oded Balilty
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Early in the morning, a burly armed security guard stood at the entrance to the narrow path separating Yair Lapid’s house in Ramat Aviv Gimmel and an adjacent navy base. The guard behind this improvised barrier denied me passage, totally ruining my daily slow-jogging route. This happened just a few hours after Lapid became Israel’s 14th prime minister. It was the first change I encountered, and not a very joyous one.

I really would like to wish Lapid my heartfelt best wishes on assuming this role, to feel that something new was happening. I’d like to think that there is a future (in Hebrew, yesh atid) and that there is some hope, to believe that a civilian prime minister, a journalist coming from a totally different background than that of all his predecessors, will bring about the yearned-for change in a “government of change” that has lost its way – if it ever had one. It could be so good for all of us, at one of the most difficult and despairing junctures the state has found itself in. Hope, for a change. Enthusiasm, for variety’s sake. But then came the armed security guard, blocking the route I’d been taking for years.

Even without this blocked route and even with a hefty dose of good will, it’s very difficult to harbor any expectations of Lapid. A first sign of this was given immediately: This week, he’s traveling to meet the president of France. What does France have to do with anything? Is that the most urgent thing a prime minister with only four months to go can do to signal a change in direction? The media coddles Lapid; most media outlets will melt with satisfaction. It’s already started: Here he is, moving to a property used up to now by security guards on Balfour Street, near the official residence. How exciting. The world will also melt with pleasure. Finally, not Benjamin Netanyahu. But at the core, nothing will change. In Israel, one right-wing prime minister replaces another. One is labeled right-wing, the other a centrist, yet all of them are deep-right and ultra-nationalist. Will Lapid not worship the IDF and do its bidding? Was his first meeting in office not with the head of the Shin Bet, of all people? And above all, is Lapid not a fervent, inveterate believer in Jewish supremacy, called Zionism, and in its result, called the Jewish state, which cannot be other than an apartheid state? Lapid is in favor of these. Oh yes, very much so. And so is his government.

An instructive example of the tiny-to-nonexistent differences between the government of the “evil” Netanyahu and the “good” Naftali Bennett, and certainly the Lapid government, was given over the weekend by Shimrit Meir, a one-time impressive political adviser to Bennett. In an interview with Nadav Eyal in Yedioth Ahronoth, she exposed the worrisome truth. The Bennett government had the same goals and modes of operation as its predecessor.

Meir, the “leftist” in Bennett’s bureau, recalled her and her prime minister’s achievements: how they managed to influence Washington so that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are not taken off the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, only for the sake of foiling – yet again, foiling – the reaching of a nuclear accord with Iran; how the government deceived – yet again, deception – the U.S. to build thousands of homes in the settlements, then bragging about it; how they managed to put pressure on the U.S. so that it retracts its decision to reopen an American consulate in East Jerusalem. Preventing an accord with Iran, building settlements and not opening an American consulate for Palestinians as well – what could be more right-wing? Where is the difference, even a tiny one, between the aims of the Netanyahu government and the “successes” of the Bennett government?

If these are considered successes by the outgoing government, it would be better if it had failed, the worse the better. If these are also Lapid’s goals, and there is no reason to think otherwise, it would be best if he failed to achieve them as well. After all, this is a government that set out to deal with the little things, ostensibly, such as the “metro law” and its like, declaring that it would stay away from big subjects like Iran and the settlements. This was a government that stood not just for anything but Netanyahu, but for a centrist approach, for change. We got neither.

I would really like to give Lapid some credit, to wish him well and all that jazz, and mostly, to feel that there is a chance for change. There isn’t any.

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