“My principle says maximum Jews on maximum land with maximum security and with minimum Palestinians”, said Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid in an interview with the right-wing newspaper Makor Rishon over the weekend.
This is a person who is a self-declared ‘centrist’ and ‘liberal’ politician. This would almost seem comic, perhaps ridiculous, if he was not a man ranked first on the list of the “Most Influential Jews in the World” by The Jerusalem Post in 2013.
But who is this man, who seems to challenge the very essence of the term “liberal”?
Yair Lapid seems to be every mother-in-law’s dream. Handsome, charming, up-beat, often smiling and in good mood. He entered politics 2012 and won a storming victory for Yesh Atid party in 2013, with no substantial prior political experience. His credentials, and no doubt public appeal, were based upon his past as a TV presenter and news anchor, as well as journalist and author. His focus was very much on “social justice”, which was a very hot item in Israel at the time – a term which naturally did not really include Palestinians as a part of its considerations. With a somewhat vague political agenda, his party suddenly became the second largest in the Knesset after Likud, with 19 seats.
He thus got the finance ministry (2013-2104).
Placing himself in the ‘center’, Yair Lapid has made some very worrying remarks in his political career. In the wake of the so-called “mixed marriage” that took place on August 17, 2014 (so-called because both partners were Muslim – the woman had simply converted from Judaism), where the fascist Lehava ‘anti-miscegenation’ organisation had demonstrated, Lapid spoke on an Israel Waves radio program saying, “It would bother me if my son married a non-Jew… It would bother me greatly.”
In the wake of Palestinian stabbing attacks last October, Lapid decided to take on the self-appointed role of head of national security, when he said on Walla News on October 11th that “whoever takes out a knife or a screwdriver [my emphasis]– should be shot dead”.
Lapid is apparently challenging the right from the center, as it were – he will show the right who is right, he will show the right who is more militaristic, who is more Zionist.
He also discards completely the possibility that the left would have any leadership influence in the coming future: Lapid now said it was clear the Left would not be in power for the next 30 years.
And so Lapid puts his bets on the right side of the spectrum, in his wish to become Prime Minister – at a briefing yesterday to the foreign press in the capital organized by the Jerusalem Press Club he said that he expected the next election to be between him and Netanyahu.
In attempt to still keep the ‘liberal’ and American-appeasing mask on, Lapid still holds on to a semblance of support for a ‘two-state solution’, defined as a ‘separation from the Palestinians’. He wants this through an agreement and not through unilateral steps, saying “international pressure will not move us towards such agreement.” In other words, Lapid wants a “peace process” – on Israel’s terms… Nonetheless, in the same briefing he leaned towards Netanyahu in regards to Iran: The Jerusalem Post reports that “Lapid did not hold back criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration’s decision to support rescinding sanctions on Iran, which will allow huge sums of money to flow to the regime… Although he called for “rebuilding relations with the US”.
In the Makor Rishon interview, in an apparent attempt to appease the right voters and soften some rough edges, Lapid apologized for calling Netanyahu “disconnected” during the last election campaign.
“I sinned in my personal discourse,” he said. “I sinned and erred with all those personal attacks. That is not what we need. We need to unite and be less divisive, and I’ll start that change with me, not by blaming but by taking responsibility.”
He also said he regretted telling Shas leader Arye Deri that he needed to be rehabilitated and promised to speak differently to the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) from now on.
“I believe it is necessary to change the tones,” he said. “I don’t need to attack the prime minister in order to become prime minister or the haredim in order to tell them that I think it is in their best interests for their children to learn math and English.”
Lapid is also seeking to appeal to English speakers: On the Yesh Atid Facebook page, he congratulated the party’s English-speaking supporters for reaching 10,000 likes. “We want you to know that Yesh Atid is your home inside this home of ours here in Israel,” he said. “We are welcoming you and hugging you and we want to draft you in order to improve this place we love so much.”
It seems Lapid is now preparing to become the big leader of all of Israel – at least the Jewish Israelis – a ‘liberal’ who is not afraid to blatantly defy international law, who has chutzpah enough to defy America with a smile, a leader who has something for (almost) everyone – respect for the religious Jews, muscles for the militant nationalists, a smile for the liberals, and even a hug for English speaking supporters.
But if you are a Palestinian, I am not sure he’s your best bet. Just make sure you don’t walk around with a screwdriver, Lapid might kill you.