Yair Lapid entered the finance minister’s role without any cabinet or Knesset experience. His supporters see this as an advantage. Lapid represents a large public that is fed up with old politics and prefers “new faces.” They and their elected officials see seniority as a burden rather than an asset.
But there is a huge difference between a politician’s two goals − to be elected and to rule. The first can sometimes be achieved with passion and persuasive rhetoric. The second requires specialization.
In a coalition government every minister must learn to function in joint responsibility with his fellow ministers. He must work with the Knesset and run a ministry. Even more so in the Finance Ministry. This ministry is in charge of the state’s income and expenses, which reflect the national priority order and consists of more than half a dozen directors general.
In the past ambitious politicians, even those who excelled in other areas, used to specialize in minor ministries before being promoted to the top. Moshe Dayan and Ariel Sharon were first placed in the Agriculture Ministry. Yigal Alon and Yitzhak Rabin started in the Labor Ministry and Ehud Barak in the Interior Ministry. Those who were catapulted to a senior portfolio straight away − from Amir Peretz as defense minister to Benjamin Netanyahu in his first term as prime minister − ended their term in failure.
Lapid, as head of an important faction, the second largest coalition partner, cannot make do with a minor portfolio. So perhaps there is no easy way for him to build up ministerial experience gradually. But this is all the more reason to expect him to act more wisely and humbly.
But this is not the case. Lapid, while talking directly to the public, as he should, is using Facebook to disclose secrets from his conversations with his ministry officials. He even blasts them − as he did over the issue of students’ tuition − with groundless arguments. They are also forced to learn from the media about the appointment of a new director general in the treasury and the biennial budget’s cancellation.
Lapid is a man of many capabilities and his intentions are presumably good. But being a cabinet member and holding a senior portfolio require responsibility, professionalism and the ability to cooperate with the ministry’s officials.