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I Don't Like Yair Lapid, but I Want Him to Do Well as Prime Minister

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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Yair Lapid attends his first cabinet meeting as Prime Minister, on Sunday.
Yair Lapid attends his first cabinet meeting as Prime Minister, on Sunday.Credit: GIL COHEN-MAGEN - AFP
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

Both the right and the left can relax: The law, as well as the natural checks and balances, will not permit Yair Lapid to change the status quo in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), the main bone of ideological contention in Israel. As caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed after the November election, he will not have the authority to introduce world-shaking changes.

In practice, he will be head of the state’s appointed committee. In many cases, the heads of appointed committees in local government succeeded where the elected officials failed. Among the important tests that Lapid will face, one that will also determine whether he is worthy of the position of national leader, is that of his management ability (Naftali Bennett proved to be a fairly successful manager). He is no longer running a party as a sole leader whose word (primarily his word) dictated everything.

In the months to come Lapid can prove that in addition to being a chronic breaker of promises – and having a mouth that produces poison pearls (like his “forces of darkness” remark June 20 when he and Bennett announced the future dissolution of the Knesset) – he is also endowed with an immanent capacity for reconciliation and reassurance. If he succeeds in this, especially in the pre-election period, he will rise to the rank of statesman.

Even if he does not rise to said rank, the media will embrace him. Conditionally, of course. As long as the man it elevates advances its goal, it will glorify him. That is why it rallied around Bennett (the goal: to oust Benjamin Netanyahu). And he, dizzy from the gesture of generosity, left his past – and his voters – behind. That could also cost him his future.

Netanyahu is indeed unworthy, even in the eyes of many in the (genuine) right, to lead the country. But if Lapid focuses on stopping him, while he may emerge as a polemicist to equal his great rival, in so doing he will not prove that he surpasses, in style and substance, his bete noire. Rhetorical ability is no substitute for deep, solid and binding ideology. Nor for understanding the genuine, not invented, needs and emotions of the people.

The most prominent current party heads are characterized by a lack of credibility. Breaking their vows is their art. Therefore, the crisis of confidence between them and voters will not be soon overcome. Lapid is one of the most prominent of them. Apart from his pledge not to cooperate with Netanyahu, there is no vow he didn’t break, no significant commitment he did not deny (alternative prime minister, remember?). His outgoing partner, the one he said he “loves,” behaved the same way.

The instability is a result of the crisis of confidence between Israelis and their elected officials. If Lapid wants to reach the upcoming election as a worthy candidate for the position of prime minister, he must work hard to restore the public’s trust in him – and in politics. When sailors lose their trust in the captain on the bridge – and in the candidates to replace him on the next shift – the route to a safe harbor will continue to be a bumpy one.

Lapid managed to reach the pinnacle of his dreams, even if not by the common route. He has many supporters, but also – and probably more – opponents. To them, and I count myself among them, it must be said: For better or worse, until the election he is steering the ship on which we all ride.

Everyone onboard, including those who wring their hands, must pitch in – Israel’s sea is always stormy – to stabilize the ship. If it runs aground, we are all in danger. This includes those who say – and who pray – “Let me die with the Philistines.” It’s true, we have no other country. In the coming months, we also will not have – “the honey and the sting, the bitter and the sweet” – another prime minister. If only he won’t uproot that which is planted.

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