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Yair Lapid is much more charming than Netanyahu, but message is the same

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Yair Lapid with Joe Biden, photo tweeted by the veep

Yair Lapid with Joe Biden, photo tweeted by the veep

Yair Lapid, the finance minister of Israel and rising centrist star, is getting sick access in the U.S. Lapid met with the vice president yesterday, in the middle of the shutdown, and they apparently got along. The veep tweeted the above picture and put out a statement saying they had a “wide-ranging conversation,” including on Iran and Palestinian negotiations. They were joined by Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew and White House Middle East Coordinator Phil Gordon.

Lapid is a former television personality, and it shows. Charlie Rose spent a lot of time with Lapid Tuesday. First on the Charlie Rose show. Then at the 92d Street Y, co-presented by the pro-Israel group, Israel Policy Forum.

Rose introduced Lapid to the 92d Street Y as “one of the most famous Jews in the world.” The interview (video here) was mostly softballs, and Lapid batted them easily to all parts of the field, like he was hosting the talk show.

He joked effortlessly about Rose’s southern accent, brushed him off when he asked if he aspires to be Prime Minister, and mocked the New York Times for quoting no one out of context. But his positions are little different from Netanyahu’s, and it’s not long before Lapid starts talking about the city of David.

He’s a hardliner on Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem will never be divided. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Countries do not give up on their capitals… But there will be yes– some territories will be returned…”

Rose: “You do not favor Jerusalem as a capital for both Palestinians and Israelis.”


Gaza isn’t part of any Palestinian state he can imagine.

Gaza is not in the game. There is no negotiation with Hamas. Hamas is a … terrorist organization and should be treated as such.

Nor is the Jordan Valley. “Security.”

He’s also a hardliner on Iran.

“The problem we have with Iran…is that they are building nuclear weapons… and they’re financing Hamas and Hizbullah… I think deceit and fraud was always part of the strategic tools [for Iran].”

Lapid said that Iran must do two simple things to end sanctions. Give up all its centrifuges, 18,000 of them, and give up its plutonium reactor. “Because no one is using plutonium reactors for a peaceful purpose.”

His attitudes about Israel are very ethnic-chauvinist. His father escaped the Holocaust in Budapest, and he loves living in a Jewish state.

“Listen, I’m not looking for a happy marriage with the Palestinians, I’m looking for a divorce. The concept of ruling… about 3 million Palestinians is problematic to the Jewish identity of Israel, and I want to live in a Jewish state…”

What worries you most about Israel’s future? Rose asked. A big part of Lapid’s answer is, Arabs.

“I would say education…. This year 49 percent of the first graders are either ultra orthodox or Arab. This is I don’t want to say an existential threat but it is an existential change in Israel. And we have to make sure that everyone will be participants in the Israeli game… So yes the internal threats are more threatening to me than the external.”

And when Lapid says that he is constantly reaching out to other parties to work with them, he means other Jewish parties, from Likud to Jewish Home to Labor. Why doesn’t Charlie Rose ask whether he talks to the Palestinian parties, and if not, why not? Rose is countenancing the same sort of discrimination he opposed as a boy in North Carolina.

Lapid says that rightwinger Naftali Bennett is a friend, and Netanyahu’s government will not collapse before its term expires. “There’s good energy and willingness to work together…”

The first question from the audience is, “Why can’t you divide the city of Jerusalem?”

The answer was ethno-religious doctrine, and a little scary:

“[If we] assume that everything is rational… then–  I might be better off living in New York. You know, Israel was created at the beginning as the safe haven for Jews in the world. I don’t think it’s a safe haven. I mean New York is a safer place to be a Jew. I am living in Israel because I want to live in a country that is not only a place but also an idea. And Jerusalem is the essence of this idea. Yes, there are…rational reasons to say OK I’m giving up on eastern Jerusalem, but countries cannot survive without ethos and the ethos of Israel is in eastern the Jerusalem. This is King David’s city. This is– You know what, our right of return is also accountable — and we have returned to Jerusalem. I like Tel Aviv where I live but we did not come back after 2000 years for Tel Aviv, we came back for Jerusalem.

Strong applause from the $29-a-head audience.

Lapid also says he believes in God and he reads the bible “a lot.” Because the bible is full of heroes, and our world is one of “anti-heroes.” Yes, and he would prefer to live in an idea, not a country. There’s a lot more gloss than Netanyahu, but the ethos is the same.

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14 Responses

  1. DICKERSON3870
    October 11, 2013, 6:53 pm

    RE: “The problem we have with Iran…is that they are building nuclear weapons… I think deceit and fraud was always part of the strategic tools [for Iran].” ~ Yair Lapid

    MY COMMENT: This appears to be yet another instance of ‘psychological projection’* on the part of the Israelis!

    “How Israel Out-Foxed US Presidents”, By Morgan Strong (A Special Report),, 5/31/10

    [EXCERPT] ● Secret Nukes and JFK
    . . . Even as it backed down in the Sinai [following its invasion in 1956], Israel was involved in another monumental deception, a plan for building its own nuclear arsenal.
    In 1956, Israel had concluded an agreement with France to build a nuclear reactor in the Negev desert. Israel also signed a secret agreement with France to build an adjacent plutonium reprocessing plant.

    Israel began constructing its nuclear plant in 1958. However, French President Charles de Gaulle was worried about nuclear weapons destabilizing the Middle East and insisted that Israel not develop a nuclear bomb from the plutonium processing plant. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion assured de Gaulle that the processing plant was for peaceful purposes only.
    After John F. Kennedy became President, he also wrote to Ben-Gurion explicitly calling on Israel not to join the nuclear-weapons club, drawing another pledge from Ben-Gurion that Israel had no such intention.
    Nevertheless, Kennedy continued to press, forcing the Israelis to let U.S. scientists inspect the nuclear reactor at Dimona. But the Israelis first built a fake control room while bricking up and otherwise disguising parts of the building that housed the plutonium processing plant.
    In return for allowing inspectors into Dimona, Ben-Gurion also demanded that the United States sell Hawk surface-to-air missiles to the Israeli military. Kennedy agreed to the sale as a show of good faith.
    Subsequently, however, the CIA got wind of the Dimona deception and leaked to the press that Israel was secretly building a nuclear bomb.
    After Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson also grew concerned over Israel’s acquiring nuclear weapons. He asked then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
    Eshkol assured Johnson that Israel was studying the matter and would sign the treaty in due course. However, Israel has never signed the treaty
    and never has admitted that it developed nuclear weapons. [For details, See “Israel and The Bomb” by Avner Cohen.] . . .


  2. DaveS
    October 11, 2013, 10:49 pm

    Absolutely true. “Liberal Zionists” have their heroes — Ben-Gurion, Rabin, Peres, Barak, Livni, etc. — who are more attuned to the sensitivities of Western audiences than gruff Begin, Shamir, Sharon, Lieberman, and Netanyahu. But wipe away the differences in style and rhetoric and the substance is not all that different. The “leftists” see more of a need to give lip service to the notion of a Palestinian State, but all they’ve ever done is proffer illusory peace plans and then blame Palestinians for “rejecting” what anyone would have found unacceptable.

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew
      October 12, 2013, 4:11 am

      David Samel- the substance is in fact different between Yossi Beilin and Netanyahu. The results may be the same (because Beilin would not grant the right of return and might demand security for too many years in the Jordan Valley) and you might decry the attitudes of Beilin (because he does not fully repent for the Nakba and doesn’t foresee a one state solution), but the substance is in fact different.

      (Beilin has never been prime minister and certainly could not get elected today and never could have gotten elected, but I think when you decry liberal Zionists you must object to him as well. And the claim that there is no difference between Beilin and Bibi is not true.)

      • DaveS
        October 12, 2013, 10:05 am

        Yonah, I was referring to the heroes of liberal Zionists, that is, the politicians who supposedly could bring about a just 2ss. None of the ones I mentioned, or Lapid, would make an effort that is appreciably different from Netanyahu’s. I do think there are sincere liberal Zionists, that is, people who think the Jewish State should continue to exist alongside a viable Palestinian State – Avnery, Finkelstein, Slater, etc. – who in theory at least believe that an Israeli pol capable of being elected could forge such a solution. However, I don’t see any on the horizon.

  3. annie
    October 11, 2013, 11:09 pm

    i saw the rose interview last night and had a dream about what he said about jerusalem. and it wasn’t a good dream. this is not going to end well.

    • dimadok
      October 12, 2013, 10:30 am

      Just for my curiosity- have you ever visited Jerusalem?

  4. seafoid
    October 12, 2013, 2:05 am

    “I want to live in a country that is not only a place but an idea”
    What a load of crap.

    Imagine trying that as a pickup line.
    “Hi gorgeous, I figure you and I could create more than a relationship- we could live in an idea”

    • Citizen
      October 12, 2013, 6:08 am

      @ seafoid

      “I want to live in a country that is not only a place but an idea”

      Since Israel does not have fully defined borders in fact, how is it “a place?” The USA is such a geographically-defined place, yet it is also an idea, i.e., “American” means legally, and in term of American ethos, a citizen of the USA, which defines itself in both state deed and state creed as a state of civic nationalism, as distinguished from any ethnic (and/or religious) nationalist state.

      There are many peoples in the world without their own ethnic state. If memory serves, the largest people of such character are the Kurds. Like the Roma, they have a long history of victimhood, but unlike the Roma, they want their own ethnic state.

  5. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    October 12, 2013, 4:24 am

    Lapid is attempting to become the heir apparent of Netanyahu. Netanyahu is on the left wing of his party and Likud is to the right of him. Lapid who gets quite a few votes from the center and from a little right of the center is trying to place himself at the spot where reasonable voters will end up voting because Avigdor Lieberman and Danny Danon are too unsavory.

    Any solution to the conflict that involves Palestinians needing to pass through Israeli checkpoints to reach Al Aqsa Mosque would clearly not work. To deny that such an arrangement “divides” Jerusalem would take a magician or a politician of real talent.

    Meanwhile Lapid is years away from leading Israel and Netanyahu is the leader and Lapid certainly cannot get the votes of the center without waxing rhapsodic about Jerusalem. But as I said, Palestinians will have to be able to reach the Temple Mount (Haram el Sharif) without passing through Israeli checkpoints if there is to be an agreement.

  6. Justpassingby
    October 12, 2013, 4:41 am

    Lapid – A wolf in sheeps clothing.

    Why does americans invite these crazy warmongers?

    • just
      October 12, 2013, 10:25 am

      Worse yet, why do they entertain them? How much face time do these awful “leaders” demand of our President and VP and the every sucking- up Congress?

      I think that any thought of giving Israelis a free pass at the WH or indeed, at our airports, is preposterous and galling.

  7. jewishgoyim
    October 12, 2013, 4:52 am

    Phil writes:
    “Lapid has an effortless charm that makes Netanyahu look like a boor, but his view that Jerusalem must never be divided, and that Palestinians cannot have a capital in East Jerusalem because the Jews have returned to the city of David after 2000 years, are hardline religious right ideas.”

    When it comes to the Israeli political spectrum, I’m not sure that these ideas fit as “hardline religious right ideas” anymore. Nowadays, they feel pretty mainstream, middle of the road views in Israel’s Jewish population.

    Let’s face it: Israel has become a theocracy bent on fulfilling a biblical prophecy, left, right and center. It is the main source or religious extremism in the West and the major factor in stirring the perception of a “clash of civilization”. Much more so than radical Islam which has less/no incentive to promote this idea (whereas Israel can use it as a way to coerce the entire West into its messianic project).

    It is covert, wearing dark suits, but when it comes to the Middle East, this extremism is making policy. (Surprisingly less so in the last month or so to be fair. Let’s see where this goes…)

  8. Krauss
    October 12, 2013, 10:01 am

    The tone of your writing is that of reluctant admiration, not necessarily for the ideas that Lapid believes in, but more how he presents them. It doesn’t feel like a staged PR-trick, which is what you’d expect from a former newsman. You can tell it’s straight from the heart. I watched the 92Y St event, and his holocaust identity is tightly strewn into the fabric of his being, it goes right at the heart of what it means to be a Jew for many(over 70% according to Pew!).

    All I can say is that it’s a mistake to underestimate Lapid, the tone from even liberal Zionists like Remnick has been that of soft derision. They automatically believe he will be swept aside once the honeymoon is over, when he can no longer coast on a popular wave of populist resentment. They believe this because they see him void of ideas and intellect, as a showman, essentially.

    All I can say is that they said the same thing of Reagan. Don’t misunderstand me; I am by no means a supporter of his. Nor do I think that he will by any chance meet the influence of Reagan, especially coming from tiny Israel. But I do caution people who easily dismiss him, people like Remnick, that this man may end up being the PM one day and could have a broader mandate than Netanyahu, Barak, Olmert or even Rabin had.

    It’s easy to see how a man like him could play the diplomatic game far easier and better than a Netanyahu, who is far more intellectual and serious, but who thrives on the role of the outsider, whereas Lapid is more like Bill Clinton in his incessant and unapologetic need for human contact, to charm and to persuade. But deep down he is an ideologue, like Reagan was, and those two combinations(deep convicition, whereas most politicians they meet are merely looking for survival, and a natural flair for charming) is deadly.

    • Krauss
      October 12, 2013, 2:13 pm

      By the way a small addition, but for me very important.
      Rabbi David Wolpe is considered as one of America’s most influential rabbis. He leads the biggest conservative shul in the LA area.
      And his shul has pro-Kahane sentiment in it.

      Pretty shocking. The event was only 10 days ago or so.

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