Photo: MCT, Dana Kopel
Lapid (R) and Netanyahu. The Left prefers Bibi? Don't lie to yourselves
Photo: MCT, Dana Kopel
Photo: Ido Erez
Nadav Eyal
Photo: Ido Erez

With power comes responsibility

Analysis: Yair Lapid has proven that he is the main non-Netanyahu candidate for prime minister; now he must prove that apart from his desire to win, he is willing to take brave (yet unpopular) steps as a leader in the opposition.

I'm pretty convinced that Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid is pretty happy with those who are writing on Facebook that he's worse than Bibi and that they would never vote for him. Lapid needs the left's alienation to put him at the center of the political map. Another ridiculing post against him, another biting satire program—Lapid just jumps in the polls.



And here's the thing: Most of the voters who move to his party come from the center-left side of the map, according to a deep look into the data. The left prefers Bibi? Don’t lie to yourselves.


For too long, the Israeli center has turned into a hypenate: "center-left." Lapid understands very well that it's impossible, based on the basic trends of Israeli society, to win like this. He was also never really a leftist, so it's hard to understand why the left is so angry with him. He doesn't even come from a home with left-wing opinions; after all, his father, the late Yosef Lapid, was accused of being late Prime Minister Menachem Begin's man in the Israel Broadcasting Authority.


Yair Lapid. Unlike other politicians, he really wants to win (Photo: Amit Shabi)
Yair Lapid. Unlike other politicians, he really wants to win (Photo: Amit Shabi)


Lapid is disappointing people who never pinned their hopes on him because of the feeling of a missed opportunity in the left. Prime ministerial candidates cannot be brought in from outside the system or invented, not even generals. It requires knowledge of the public, positioning, and media interest. There are no other candidates today apart from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Lapid who create this buzz, and no such candidate is likely to pop up until the next elections.


And here's the essential political point: Lapid really wants to win. You may be surprised, but this is a refreshing novelty in any place and party that isn't Bibi and his wife. I know political candidates for the most senior positions who dreamt of a national unity government rather than of one led by them. The camp which has not been winning for many years now has completely forgotten that politics is not a youth-movement activity. It requires strategy as well as compromising on principles—even before the coalition negotiations.


US President Barack Obama tried to attract independent voters in the Democratic Party elections in 2008, so he dropped the democratic vision of governmental health insurance for all Americans in favor of supervised private insurance. Hillary Clinton stuck to her principles and raised the flag high; she lost to Obama. And here, I almost don't need to mention, the left despised Yitzhak Rabin and later Ehud Barak. It accused both of them of flattering the right. The truth is that the left's diagnosis was correct. The left was correct, and Rabin and Barak won.


Here are a few basic facts: Israeli politics are a system of blocs. Without right-wing voters moving to the center or to the left, Likud will never lose. These voters are looking for a figure they perceive as central and leaning to the right. Here's another basic fact: Without the ultra-Orthodox, any centrist or leftist candidate doesn't stand a chance. So when Lapid says in a Channel 10 interview about the train issue that "the ultra-Orthodox have nothing to do with the crisis," it raises a bitter smile, but it also demonstrates political discipline. "Do you want to have fun, or do you want to win?" late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau chief, Uri Shani, would ask him sometimes in his great battles against Netanyahu. Sharon, with clenched teeth, preferred to win.


Lapid still has a lot to prove: that apart from his desire to win, he's willing to take brave steps as an opposition leader, steps which are right in principle, although initially unpopular. Policy moves—ones which will inspire honest public discourse, which is greatly needed in Israel.


Breaking the Silence is an important organization in the current atmosphere of an attacked Israeli democracy. Lapid, for his part, believes they are serving Israel's enemies, and that is a very common opinion among the Israeli public. But where does he stand in regards to the larger issue which cannot be denied, the attempt to perforate democracy itself?


Expected attacks on the left and speaking in front of a supportive audience in the heart of the deep darkness of Stockholm will not really do the trick. What is needed is ideological weight and risks. Lapid already proved in the previous elections that he is not an "atmosphere party." He is now proving that he is the main candidate for prime minister who is not Netanyahu. Now he must prove that he is an opposition.


Nadav Eyal is Channel 10's chief international correspondent.  


פרסום ראשון: 09.08.16, 23:37
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