Photo: Gil Yohanan
Lapid. Took the lousiest position at the worst possible time
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Photo: Itzik Biran
Hanoch Daum
Photo: Itzik Biran

Unpopular, yet responsible

Op-ed: Lapid paying price for illusion that deficit can be overcome just by cutting back on haredi stipends

So what will happen now that Lapid has come out of his Facebook page and answered the press' questions? What new claim will be voiced against Lapid, now that the protest over the fact that he is not leaving his Facebook page is no longer relevant?


So now people will say that the budget harms the middle class. And it's true. The budget harms the middle class as well, and we must honestly admit that a similar budget, had it been submitted with Lapid in the opposition, would have been subject to a massive attack by his Yesh Atid party.


But Lapid is in the coalition, and he understands that there is really no way to deal with a deficit of some NIS 40 billion (about $11 billion) with a budget that will be applauded. Shelly Yachimovich knew that, and therefore didn't join the government. Lapid knew that too, but decided to join the government and even agreed to take the Finance portfolio.


Why did he do that? Among other things, because he's not afraid of conflicts. It's funny, because the criticism against him is always contrary: That he tries to be nice at any cost. Well, surprise: Lapid submitted a tough budget, and judging from what we've heard from those who see him at the office every day, he is completely unfazed by the criticism. Signing an agreement with (Histadrut Chairman) Eini is not the most populist decision either, but Lapid thought it was the right thing to do.


So the easiest thing right now is to arrogantly criticize Lapid's press conference. The easiest thing is to stand aside and click your tongue. You are not required to present an alternative. You're just standing aside, looking annoyed, and saying: What a depressing budget. And it really is, only this is the right order of things: The budget is indeed depressing, but it's depressing mainly because things are bad, and when things are bad you cut back, and when you cut back the budget is depressing.


It's possible that holding a press conference with Ofer Eini of all people was not the best idea. Perhaps he should have favored a strike over a dialogue. I don't know. but it's clear that Lapid submitted a responsible budget rather than a popular budget which would have put the economy in danger. The way I see it, if there is something Lapid is paying the price for now, it's not the budget he is submitting – it's the illusion he created during the election campaign, that the deficit could be overcome just by cutting back on haredi stipends.


Allow me not to take part in the new sport gathering momentum (striking Lapid) and mention something positive on the sidelines of the commotion: Two months ago people questioned Lapid's knowledge of economics, while today the discussion is about his policy and the direction he is leading the economy to. Six weeks in office, and despite the criticism over the budget, no one is asking whether Lapid can take the Finance portfolio upon himself. Lapid jumped into the stormy water, took the lousiest position at the worst possible time, and no one is claiming today – including his greatest critics – that the position is beyond his capability.



פרסום ראשון: 05.10.13, 14:44
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