In an interview given by Yair Lapid before the election, the leader of the Yesh Atid party was asked if he had ever smoked marijuana. He said he never had, and that he was against it. But on Sunday, Haaretz journalist Uri Misgav revealed in print and on his blog that Lapid had lied. Misgav presented evidence from people who knew Lapid and who said he smoked marijuana with them 20 years ago. Lapid refused to comment.
As the leader of the second-largest party in the Knesset, as a candidate for finance or foreign minister in the next government, and as someone who has preached about "new politics," Lapid's credibility has suffered a blow. But the story raises an even more principled question: Why did Lapid deny that he'd smoked and risk being exposed to the public? Why in 2013 can't an Israeli politician just say he smoked marijuana when he was young but that he stopped long ago and opposes it now?
Smoking marijuana is illegal in Israel, as in most countries around the world, but there are few laws violated so blatantly as the ban on smoking marijuana and hashish. Large segments of the public think such use is legitimate and acceptable - not only in private, but also in public. The smell of joints wafting through bars in Tel Aviv recalls the coffee shops of Amsterdam. Even in the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service they no longer cancel security clearances for those who admit they have smoked marijuana, so long as they promise they have quit. If they were to automatically rule out everyone who has smoked, they would find it difficult indeed to fill sensitive positions.
Grass remains taboo in politics only, where the hypocrisy concerning drugs is rampant - and this is particularly true for marijuana. The debate on legalization, which is being held in every Western nation, is viewed here as joke for potheads, and not as a serious matter for serious politicians. Lapid did not invent the accepted lie, he only joined the trend, and that is a shame. If only he had spoken honestly about his experience, it would have enriched the debate and showed that his decision to join politics may effect change with regard to an issue that, while not critical, does interest voters no less than drafting Haredim.
Now we must wait and see who the new politician is to tear off his mask and say: "I smoked dope and enjoyed it - who wants to talk about it?"
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