Yair Lapid, A Unique Politician in Israel

The new Israeli government is slowly getting down to business and even though many do not rate their chances for survival very high, a new era in Israeli politics has begun and it definitely is a reason for cautious optimism.

It is not the first time that a wide-ranging coalition was formed in Israel but it is still amazing to realize that Meretz and Yamina found enough common ground to embark on this endeavor or that Yisrael Beitenu of Lieberman would agree to form a government with Ra’am. The polarizing tendencies of Netanyahu and his allies have over the years made it impossible to reach compromises on anything or anybody and the simple realization that now people have been brought together who put aside their personal rivalries, their ideologies and their sense of self-importance, is a major break-through in Israel politics and a significant win for the people, even though not all may (yet) realize this.

When the election results came in it was difficult to believe that the “anti-Netanyahu” group would be able to overcome its differences and reach a coalition agreement but after a long and arduous process, the result is a new government in Jerusalem.

And it is (almost) all due to one person, and one person only: Yair Lapid.

The leader of the largest party in the anti Netanyahu bloc, he received the mandate to form a government after Netanyahu failed to do so and his approach to Israeli politics and his commitment to his voters raised Lapid to levels of determination that have hardly ever been seen in Israeli politics and his willingness to put his ego on a backburner has made things reality that were considered impossible.

During the election campaign already it became clear that Lapid was not just another popular TV show host wanting to be a politician. His insight and understanding showed from the start, but his attitude, his rhetoric, and his respect for his fellow candidates made Lapid stand out and made him the best example that convincing voters does not have to be accompanied by gross language or name-calling.

Lapid also has been capable of concessions that did not appear possible in the Netanyahu era and after his Yesh Atid party and Benny Gantz decided to move forward together during the first election (of the four we had in the past two years) and form Blue and White, Lapid played second fiddle behind Gantz, until Gantz decided, against all promises and agreements with his partners, to join Netanyahu and form a government. The alliance broke up and after that Lapid ran with his party by himself in the elections that followed after Gantz learned the hard way that agreements with Netanyahu aren’t worth the paper they ae written on.

During the negotiations that eventually led to the coalition government that was sworn in last week, Lapid did show that he really has Israel and its people in mind. Bringing together right and left of the Israeli political spectrum is no small feat and Lapid knew what it would require: to give up on the Prime Minister’s post for himself even though he is the leader of the biggest party in the bloc. The bait that in the end (the very end) made Bennett agree to join the coalition and give it its (precarious) majority was the offer to lead the new government and become its Prime Minister. It remains to be seen if Bennett can overcome his personal ambitions after he took this opportunity and is able to put Israel before his personal ambitions (and admittedly, the signs at least before the formation of this government were not encouraging), but the fact is that the government was established and it is showing signs that it will do all in its power to work together, to tackle the serious problems Israel has to deal with and to move forward without idealism and political views standing to much in the way.

During the Knesset session where the government was sworn in, again Lapid showed that he is not the standard rowdy politician that Israel has become accustomed to. When he took the podium to give his speech, after Bennett, who needed an hour to deliver his 20-minute address because of the incessant hackling by the opposition, he made due with expressing his shame, as a member of the Knesset, for the behavior of his fellow parliamentarians and did not give his speech.

 Lapid has shown Israel that things can be different. That screaming and name-calling doesn’t need to be the basis of communication in Israeli politics and that respect for your colleagues and for the country and the people you represent, both create a much more pleasant atmosphere and yield results.

Believing that this “new” political behavior will catch on appears to stretch optimism a bit thin, but Lapid has shown that thing can be different and maybe the voter will be sufficiently impressed to acknowledge this.

I hope you found this article interesting and I welcome any comments you may have.

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