Yair Lapid
Photo: Ben Kelmer

Israel's new political reality

Op-ed: Will Yair Lapid's decision to enter politics change the State of Israel’s face?

Long months where the political establishment enlisted to the cause of blocking his way, including an outrageous legislation bid, drew to an end Sunday. Yair Lapid announced his decision to enter politics.


Anyone who sees the welfare of the country before him must be happy that a person like Yair Lapid is willing to enter a theater that is almost impossible to negotiate without emerging out of it battered, bleeding, smeared and badmouthed.


Lapid has much to lose. It should not be taken for granted that a man who holds the most desirable post in the Israeli media, with a high salary and huge popularity, would give it all up because of a frank desire to bring change. This may not be enough to succeed in politics, but it merits appreciation and support.


Only petty, smalltime people who are jealous and devious – like many of the figures in our Knesset – would wish to prevent good people from entering politics.


If it depended on him, Lapid would have surely not done it at this time. The elections are not on the horizon and there is no guarantee that they would be held this year. In the long months that will pass, Lapid will lose an excellent post and plenty of money. However, he apparently decided that he does not want one of the most despicable laws passed by Israel’s Knesset to be named after him.


Lapid entered Israel’s political swamp Sunday without being connected to the central committee of any party, to functionaries or to activists; he also did it without seeking a guaranteed spot in any party, even though he would have received any spot in any party he would join.


Mission impossible?

The polls undertaken by the media, as well as behind closed doors in the large parties – which look into his popularity with anxiety – predict an almost unprecedented 15 to 20 Knesset seats. However, Lapid has been in the game for long enough to know this isn’t realistic. The coming months will be critical for him – he can’t go any higher but he has plenty of room to plummet. We’ve already seen people who did well in the polls only to crash later.


Lapid realizes that his move into politics threatens not only centrist parties like Kadima and Labor. He may also take away Knesset seats from Likud and even from Yisrael Beiteinu. It is no wonder that Knesset members from across the political spectrum enlisted to the cause of stopping him.


Israeli politics will look different as of this morning. An important, central element entered the ring; an element that cannot be ignored and that may have a dramatic effect on the face of the country.


On the other hand, the burden of proof is on Lapid from now on. He will have to show that in addition to his natural charm, charisma and media talent, he also has what it takes to be a politician. First of all, thick skin, which he does not necessarily have.


However, Lapid’s success and influence will mostly be determined by his ability to change the balance between Israel’s leftist and rightist blocs. It would not be enough to take away votes from the leftist bloc. Lapid needs to be the man who manages to draw votes from the rightist bloc as well, thereby ending its longtime hegemony.


This is a difficult mission for one person. It may even be impossible. But at least it’s a start.



פרסום ראשון: 01.09.12, 09:34
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