Column One: Lapid's political crack-up
By CAROLINE B. GLICK , The Jerusalem Post
December 5, 2014
The upcoming elections are necessary; the up to NIS 1.2 billion that
taxpayers will have to pay to finance the vote scheduled for March 17
is money well spent.
Three days after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and leader of the
Yesh Atid party and now former finance minister Yair Lapid failed to
resolve their differences and so thrust Israel into an electoral
season less than two years after the last election, the Left's
narrative is already clear. Netanyahu has forced unnecessary, costly
elections on the country.
He did so because his reactionary nature, overweening ego and thin
skin made it impossible for him to handle a true reformer like Lapid,
who was trying to push the country forward.
The actual situation is quite different. These elections are
necessary. The up to NIS 1.2 billion that taxpayers will have to pay
to finance the vote scheduled for March 17 is money well spent. And if
the current polls are even close to what the election results will be
three months from now, then the public understands that they are
necessary and intends to elect a government that will serve it better
than the one that just dissolved.
To be sure, Netanyahu is the one who decided to call elections. But
the person responsible for making it impossible for the existing
government to function is Lapid. Over the past few months Lapid has
had the political equivalent of a nervous breakdown.
In 2013, Lapid ran as a centrist. The television celebrity's new
party, Yesh Atid, presented itself as the voice of the hard-working
middle class whose members love this country and are tired of electing
governments that trample their economic interests and take them for
granted in favor of special interests, especially the haredim.
In other words, Lapid ran as his father's son.
The late Yosef "Tommy" Lapid's Shinui party also claimed to be the
voice of the middle class and the ideological Center, fighting the
special interests, especially the haredim.
But as economic commentator Rotem Sella explained Thursday on the NRG
website, aside from boycotting the haredim, Lapid Jr. did not follow
in his father's footsteps after taking office.
Whereas Shinui was a liberal free market party that supported
then-finance minister Netanyahu's reforms that transformed Israel's
sclerotic, socialist economy into a rapidly growing free market, Lapid
and his ministers from Yesh Atid exchanged their capitalist platform
for socialist policies immediately upon taking office. In so doing
they put Israel on a path to recession and social upheaval.
As Sella noted, among other things, shortly after taking office Lapid
capitulated to the thuggish Histadrut labor federation and agreed not
to touch the inflated salaries of state employees - paid for by the
middle class taxpayers who voted for him.
His health minister, Yael German, took steps to wipe out private
medical services through draconian taxation and paralyzing regulation
of private medical services. Her actions didn't rescue the bankrupt
public health system. They merely served to deny citizens the right to
pay for better healthcare and to deny doctors the opportunity to make
a living even remotely commensurate with the value of their skills.
In recent months, Lapid's signature policies were his decision to
expand the deficit in order to increase welfare spending and his draft
bill to cancel VAT for select first-time home purchasers.
The former policy has already damaged Israel's international credit
rating. The latter policy has been criticized across the board by
economists as a populist move that will raise housing prices and waste
NIS 3b. in taxpayer money - that is, well more than the cost of the
Lapid's refusal to reconsider his policies despite their self-evident
foolishness was a key cause of the government's fall. And his
insistence that only mean-spirited reactionaries oppose his plans is
evidence that he lacks the capacity to understand how people perceive
That brings us to his ideological transformation in office from a
self-proclaimed centrist security hawk to a member in good standing of
the radical Left.
The votes for at least half of the 19 mandates Lapid won in the last
election were given to him by the center-right. Yesh Atid contended
for these votes against the rightist Bayit Yehudi party led by Economy
Minister Naftali Bennett.
Netanyahu threw many of the ballots Lapid's way when he opened a
vicious attack against Bennett in the final weeks of the campaign.
Out of respect for his voters, Lapid gave his first policy address at
Ariel University in Samaria. During the coalition talks he and Bennett
formed an alliance to force Netanyahu to take both of their parties
into the government.
Without Bennett it is entirely possible that Lapid would have spent
the last two years as head of the opposition.
Yet, within a few months of taking office, Lapid began a gradual slide
to the Left. In recent months the slide became a steep and rapid
descent as his broadsides against Netanyahu and the Right became ever
more frequent and extreme.
Lapid's most radical position has been his unhinged opposition in
recent weeks to the draft basic law defining Israel as the Jewish
For those with short memories, the draft law began as an initiative of
the Livni-led Kadima party, co-sponsored by nearly 80% of its Knesset
faction. Yet, much to the consternation of his Zionist voters, Lapid
caused untold damage to Israel by proclaiming that the anodyne draft
legislation, most of the provisions of which are already anchored in
standing law, and which he supported until just recently, is
If that wasn't enough, during his press conference on Wednesday night,
Lapid unleashed a wild attack on Netanyahu. Lapid proclaimed that
during Operation Protective Edge last summer, Netanyahu's cabinet
"lost its faith in his ability to manage" the war. This allegation
says more about Lapid than it does about Netanyahu.
After all, if he believed that Netanyahu was incompetent to lead the
nation in war, how did he dare to stay silent? Why did he repeatedly
vote in favor of Netanyahu's decisions? Lapid accused Netanyahu of
destroying Israel's relations with the US. He claimed that he receives
frequent calls from US senators demanding explanations for Netanyahu's
"patronizing, and contemptuous" behavior toward the US.
The problem with Lapid's allegations is that the public doesn't
believe them. During and in the immediate aftermath of the war,
Netanyahu's popularity was sky high.
As for relations with the US, this week Bar- Ilan University's BESA
Center released the results of its biennial survey of Israeli opinion
of relations with the US. According to the survey, Israelis blame US
President Barack Obama, not Netanyahu, for the crisis in relations
with the White House.
Whereas 73 percent of Israelis believe the US is a loyal ally of
Israel, only 37% believe that Obama's position toward the country is
positive. Sixty-one percent believe he is either negatively inclined
toward Israel or neutral.
According to Haaretz, the White House recognizes that the Israeli
public blames it for the crisis in relations. On Thursday, the paper
reported that the administration was planning to escalate its
anti-Israel policies, but now will put them on hold. Administration
officials reportedly fear that US pressure on Israel during the
elections campaign will increase public support for Netanyahu.
During his press conference, Lapid insisted that Netanyahu will not
serve again as premier.
But according to polls, Netanyahu has no rivals for the job. It is not
merely that nearly three times as many people think that Netanyahu is
the best person to serve as prime minister when compared to his
closest contender, Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog. It's also that the
polls show right-wing parties picking up seats, while Lapid's party is
likely to lose more than half it seats in the Knesset.
Far from Lapid's insistent claim that Netanyahu is "cut off" from the
public, it is Lapid who sees nothing but his own reflection.
According to a report Wednesday published by the NRG website, members
of Yesh Atid's Knesset faction are furious with Lapid. They believe
that his move to the Left is destroying the party.
And they are correct.
The 10 mandates from free market supporters on the center-right that
Lapid won two years ago will go to actual center-right and rightist
parties. Likud, the centrist party just formed by former Likud
minister Moshe Kahlon, Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu will all pick
up votes from disaffected Yesh Atid voters.
All that remains of Yesh Atid's great promise are nine Knesset seats
which Lapid took two years ago from Labor, Kadima and Meretz.
Today the leftist parties are polling 33 Knesset seat total, and it is
hard to see how that number can rise.
This brings us to the reason these elections are so necessary. Lapid's
con job on the voters two years ago meant that the public didn't
receive the center-right government it wanted. Lapid taught the public
that there are no center-left parties, only leftist parties that
pretend to be centrist for electoral purposes.
These elections are necessary because the public hasn't changed in two
years. It still wants a center-right government that supports free
market economics. And now, according to the polls, the public
understands what it needs to do to get the government it wants. It
needs to boot out the Left.
And so we arrive at the polling data. Whereas the undisguised Left is
where it has been for the past 10 years, at roughly 20% of the
electorate, the center-right is polling 50%.
With the haredi parties, Netanyahu can form a coalition government
with no leftist parties that rests on the support of nearly two-thirds
of the seats in the Knesset.
Until now such a coalition was deemed politically unattractive by the
political consultant class, because the public believed that only the
Left could call itself the Center. Now, thanks to Lapid, the public
sees the truth. The Left in power means lies, bad policies, and
political chaos. The Left out of power means truth, good policies and
Back in the halcyon days of 2013, when Yesh Atid was the toast of the
town, Lapid told us that the "old politics" are dead, and that "new
politics," had won the day. These "new politics" would propel the
country to new heights of good government and economic growth.
Lapid of course was lying. But his slogan might work for the Likud in
the coming election cycle.
By finally exposing the Left as incapable of ever moving toward the
Center, Lapid has taught us what we need to do to get the government
we want. And the polls indicate that the public has learned the
lesson. The price tag for a truly center-right government with liberal
economic policies is up to NIS 1.2b. That's a liquidation sale price.
Caroline B. Glick is the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State
Plan for Peace in the Middle E