Israel: Lapid vindicates himself from power against Netanyahu | International
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The unusual magnanimity of his resignations in favor of other political allies seems to have finally been rewarded. The centrist Yair Lapid, leader of the second largest party in Israel and acting prime minister since Friday, has taken a decade to reach the leadership of the Jewish state, albeit provisionally. Since he parked a stellar career in journalism, his political career had been marked by sacrifices. In 2019, he stepped back to hand over leadership of the center to Benny Gantz, then a former general with no government experience and now defense minister. In 2021 he handed over the position of chief executive, which corresponded to him by number of seats in the alliance of forces that he himself had forged, to Naftali Bennett. But this ultra-nationalist partner has ended up throwing in the towel in the face of the decomposition of his own party, which has left the most heterogeneous coalition in Israeli history in the minority.
The perseverance of Lapid, 58, considered one of Israel’s most charismatic leaders, is now vindicated in a privileged position. From the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, he is preparing to challenge at the polls this fall the hegemony of conservative leader Benjamin Netanyahu, 72, the head of government who has served the longest (14 years) and with whom he already it has been electorally beaten six times.
Famous television presenter and columnist, the thrust of his popularity catapulted the Yesh Atid party (There is a Future, in Hebrew), which he had just founded, as the second force in the Knesset (Parliament) in the 2013 legislative elections, surfing the wave of youth economic protests. Netanyahu had no choice but to bring him into his coalition as finance minister, despite his acknowledged lack of economic knowledge. He got rid of him two years later in a new electoral round.
The experience of failure in management and setback at the polls, as well as crossing the wastelands of the opposition for seven years, gave him the wisdom to function with ease in the Knesset, one of the most fragmented and Cainist legislative chambers on the planet. . In the same way, defeat and marginalization have smoothed away his frivolous appearance as an amateur boxer, pop singer and occasional actor to outline a figure of a statesman, propped up as head of diplomacy for a year, a position he will continue to hold. Furthermore, a leader who puts team cohesion before his own personal projection is a prized rarity in political activity, particularly in Israel.
Contrary to the usual electoral strategies, focused on the defense and security of a State that feels under existential threat, Lapid seems to bet on a campaign more focused on everyday life. Without neglecting the danger posed by the presence of Hamas in Gaza; Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and the Guardians of the Iranian Revolution, in Syria, their message aims to focus on the skyrocketing cost of living and the high cost of housing in one of the countries rated as the most onerous in the scales of economic magazines . And, above all, presenting himself as a champion “before the forces that threaten to turn Israel into an undemocratic nation”, a thinly veiled allusion to Netanyahu. His detractors blame the former conservative prime minister who only seeks to continue in politics to save himself from his trial for corruption.
Born and settled in Tel Aviv, in a secular and informal environment at the opposite end of the religious rigor of Jerusalem, the new acting prime minister is the son of Tomy Lapid, a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to Israel from the former Yugoslavia, and who He also practiced journalism and became a minister. His mother is a renowned literary author, related to the owners of one of the main Hebrew newspapers. Although he dropped out of school, he carefully trained in the newsrooms of newspapers and television channels. He completed his military service 40 years ago as a correspondent for the newspaper of the Armed Forces in the invasion of Lebanon.
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A radical reformer, with social democratic features in economics and conservatives in security, Lapid is inspired by the program of overcoming the dialectic between the traditional parties preached by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, whom he plans to visit next week on his first trip to the Exterior. His referent in Spain was Ciudadanos, a party that sponsored his visit to Parliament to expose his rejection of the pro-Palestinian campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli state.
One of its hallmarks is extreme secularism in a country that calls itself a Jewish state. In his first public act after the formal transfer of powers, on Friday he went to the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum and Center to pay tribute to his relatives annihilated by Nazism, instead of covering himself with the traditional yarmulke (religious round cap) and pray before the Wailing Wall, as is customary among new Israeli leaders. His opposition to the impositions of the ultra-orthodox Jews (12% of the population) on the secular majority has been one of his political banners. As he passed through the Government, in 2014 he promoted the incorporation into military service of students from the yeshivas (rabbinical schools), from which they were exempt.
Immediately after the vote in the Knesset I went to @yadvashemthe World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
There I promised my late father that I will always keep Israel strong and capable of defending itself and protecting its children. pic.twitter.com/40LsrF1TYJ
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) June 30, 2022
After years of hosting a top weekend TV show, and writing hundreds of columns in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronot, the most widely circulated, Lapid’s well-known chiseled face and gray hair are now associated in Israel with the figure of a political leader. The impact of his popularity in society approximates that of Netanyahu, a veteran leader who has dominated Israel’s politics for the past three decades. He, too, has shed his usual on-screen casual black attire to don statesmanship in the world’s chanceries.
Favorable to the two-state solution
Lapid is the first head of government since 2009 to declare himself in favor of a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict. He is expected to have a more moderate and favorable attitude than his predecessors Netanyahu and Bennett, opposed to negotiating with the Palestinians and favorable to the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But it is not foreseeable that he will be able to advance in the peace process as his hands are tied by the restrictions that imply his interim government. Regarding Iran, he will maintain the frontal rejection of the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the great powers, which the US and the EU now aspire to reactivate after the suspension dictated by Donald Trump from the White House in 2018.
Also for the first time since 2009, Netanyahu will not star in power in the next electoral campaign of the conservative Likud, the party with the most seats in the Knesset. Lapid’s gambit to remove him from office a year ago, forging a heterogeneous coalition of eight parties, with the precedent of an Arab party, and the internal pacts he signed with Bennett, have handed him the post of prime minister before the battle at the polls.
His projection will not stop growing in this new position, despite the limitations of exercising it in functions. In two weeks he will receive the president of the United States, Joe Biden, in Jerusalem, as part of his tour of the Middle East. And on the eve of the November 1 elections, it will be he who addresses the world on behalf of Israel from the rostrum of the United Nations General Assembly, a role in which younger Israelis have known no other protagonist than Netanyahu.
“In Israel we do not need major constitutional reforms,” Lapid anticipated the essence of his program last week, when the failure of Bennett’s coalition had already been announced. “What we need is to regain unity and prevent the forces of darkness (of Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodox and far-right allies) from blowing us up.”
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