Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid assured his Facebook followers on Friday that he knew what he was doing when he agreed to serve as finance minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government.
Commenting on the appointment several hours after the coalition agreement was signed, Lapid asked "those who have informed me that I have lost my mind" to "give me some credit or at least assume that I was aware of the risks involved in the matter."
- Netanyahu: Likud-Beiteinu kept important portfolios
- Coalition deal: Fewer benefits for haredim, draft reform
- Yishai warns Lapid will target settlements
He rejected the theory that Netanyahu wanted to appoint him finance minister in order to damage Lapid's popularity, adding that if he failed in getting Israel's economy "out of the deep mud," the prime minister would fall together with him.
"Moreover, I am not afraid to take measures that will affect my popularity. My job is not to be popular but to lead," Lapid added. He said that he felt that choosing any other position would mean "taking the easy way out."
"I went to the elections under the slogan, 'Where is the money?' as the representative of the Israeli middle class, and I am bound by this statement," he added.
Lapid opened his Facebook post by saying, "There were three types of reactions to my appointment as finance minister. The first type was of people who simply congratulated me. They did so carefully, expressing concern over my chances to succeed, but said they trusted me and appreciated the fact that I was going to the most difficult place in Israeli politics with my eyes wide open. I thank them.
"The second type was of those who informed me that I had lost my mind, that Netanyahu had fooled me, that this was a honey trap (although I didn’t understand where the honey was), that this was a political graveyard, that I had no chance of succeeding and that I would lose all the assets we gained during the elections and will become the most hated person in Israel – not because of me, God forbid, but because that's what always happens to the finance minister, especially in times of budget cuts.
"I'm not going to argue with them, because their intentions are not bad and I believe they are a mostly just concerned about me, but I think it wouldn't be exaggerated to ask for a bit more credit: At least assume that I knew the risks involved in the matter beforehand."
Lapid with Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett (Photo: AP)
Lapid went on to say that he was "aware of the sophisticated thesis that Netanyahu offered me this portfolio so that I would fail and he would get rid of a potential rival." He rejected that theory out of hand.
"Like most theories, this conspiracy does not hold water either. Even those who don't believe Netanyahu should know that if the finance minister fails, he takes the prime minister down with him. If we fail to get the Israeli economy out of the deep mud it is in (and every day I learn just how deep it is), Netanyahu will suffer as much as I will. The need to work together is an interest shared by both of us, and interests are a very strong thing."
'Things will be worse before they're better'Addressing the fact that the position of finance minister always involves decision that harm the minister's public support, Lapid wrote: "I am not afraid to take measures that will affect my popularity. Being popular is a lot of fun, but it's not a goal. If I start asking myself before every decision whether it will hurt my popularity – I won't make any decisions. One of the most dangerous things a person can do is to become too cautious. My job is not to be popular, but to lead.
"During the campaign," the Yesh Atid chairman added, "I used to tell people that leadership means to instill hope in people, and then to make them work together for its fulfillment. It's a long way, sometimes torturing, and in times of cuts I take into account that many people will be angry or disappointed. It upsets me of course, but I won't let it affect my actions or change my goals."
As for the third types of reactions he got, Lapid wrote: "Those are the people who simply said, 'Why the Treasury?' There were usually follow-up questions: 'Why didn't you insist on the Foreign Ministry? Why not interior minister with greater authority? What makes you fit for this position? Since you are not an economist, wouldn't it be better to bring a professional from the outside?' These are all legitimate questions.
"The answer is that after repeatedly examining all options, I couldn’t escape the conclusion that every other role would mean taking the easy way out. Yes, the Foreign Ministry (which I couldn't get in any case) is probably much more fun. Yes, in the Interior Ministry I would not be criticized as much. True, I'm not an economist. But I went to these elections under the slogan, 'Where is the money?' as the representative of the Israeli middle class, and I am bound by this statement.
"Naturally, the Finance Ministry needs talented economics – it has quite a few of those, and part of my job will be to surround myself with the best professionals Israel has to offer, and make them work together. Perhaps the finance minister's seat does not need an external expert to sit on it, but a politician backed by significant political power.
"Only a politician can endure all the pressure exerted by the different systems on the Finance Ministry; only a politician can – and should – set a national list of priorities; only a politician can fight for a section in the budget against all other politicians; only a politician who is not dependant on anyone can do what the finance minister has to do every day, all day – say 'no.'"
Lapid went on to say that the finance minister was a person who launched a daily war in order to protect the State's economy and citizens. "In my case, the finance minister will also be a person who will launch a daily war in order to protect the Israeli middle class, which has been neglected for two decades.
"It's not going to be easy, and things will be worse before they're better, but as everyone who has been following the establishment and conduct of Yesh Atid knows – I do not run away from battles."