Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Yair Lapid and The Elections in Israel

January 25, 2013 10:56 am 7 comments

Yair Lapid. Photo: Wikipedia.

I am pleasantly surprised by the results of the latest elections in Israel. Not because anything has significantly changed, but precisely because, other than superficially, it hasn’t.

The Jewish vote in Israel is divided, roughly speaking, between three major groupings of opinion: secular liberal center to left, secular right-wing, and the religious vote which supports whichever government gives them more money. Of course there are overlaps, such as religious parties that are against ceding an inch of territory for peace and those who don’t care what the State does so long as they get their payoffs. The secular center wants the religious world to take on more responsibility for the nation, but is not as anti-religious as the secular left. And let us not forget the Arab vote which sadly falls between all the stools.

Over the years I cannot count the number of changes in names, splits, realignments, one-man parties that mushroom, see the light of day, and soon wither, transform themselves, or merge. And politicians hop skip and jump between them. Does anyone remember how many parties Tzipi Livni has stood for?

The big news before the election was that the national religious Naftali Bennett would command the right. He certainly revived a moribund party, but he became no king-maker. The news after the election was that Yair Lapid’s new party Yesh Atid  (Yes, There is a Future) was the big winner. If Netanyahu’s Likud party aligns with the religious parties, he will form a government in which he will be in hock to them and nothing changes. If he aligns with Yair Lapid, as he tried and failed to do with Livni’s Kadima last time round, we might actually see some changes in Israeli society.

I am a great believer in balance, in the Golden Mean, in avoiding extremes. I also believe that the saving grace of democracies is that one can get rid of the old and in with new. But forgive my skepticism if I reiterate that I believe that nothing much will change, simply because of the way the system works and because no one has an agenda to change it for fear that they might lose out next time round.

Until this election, no one in power had a stake in peace negotiations, a desire to try to avoid provocation with the Palestinians or the Americans, or a vision of how to avoid ruling the Palestinian Arabs. No one had the power to tell Netanyahu and his thankfully diminished Russian Mafioso foreign minister that braggadocio gets you nowhere and the longer a Palestinian Arab minority isn’t independent the more you lose any vestige of moral authority or hope for a normal life.

The question is what power might do to Lapid if he gets into bed with Bibi. I like Lapid’s agenda and, unlike his father’s brief grab at power, he has included some religious personalities in his party. Unlike Livni, I think Lapid might just be prepared to sit at the same table as Netanyahu. But his room for maneuver is limited. Because Netanyahu can always wave the red (or white) flag of the religious block that refuses to countenance any change in the internal status quo. They are adamantly set against community service, if not the army, for Charedi men, or any curb on the coercive excesses of the rabbinate as it veers further and further to the lunatic fringes.

I desperately want to see the secular parties stand up to the religious parties and sideline them and their blackmail. Will Lapid achieve this and also help move towards making Israel a more just society, one that is not dominated by a handful of families and oligarchs who control most of the wealth? I doubt it, but I can hope can’t I?

I should add that I am also pleased with Yachimovich’s reviving the fortunes of the old left-wing Eastern European Mapai. The electorate has shown that it is divided and no group has the right to monopolize power. It is the sign of a healthy democracy that there is this religious, social, and political variety and balance that can prevent any one side from hijacking the state altogether.

When one looks around at the disasters unfolding in the states around Israel, one can understand the feeling that there is no one to talk to and no hope for a peaceful solution. Many Israelis are proud of the differences between their state and the surrounding disasters, even if there is a fierce battle going on for its soul. I want Israel to have a religious dimension. I want to see a sector of its society passionately defend Israel’s existence. I also want to see a stout defense of civil liberties, freedoms, and equalities. I want to see a supreme court with both sides represented, but without either one being completely in control. In disagreement lies health. In unanimity lies suffocation. This election highlighted once again the rich and frustrating varieties of Israeli and Jewish life.

Avishai Margalit writes, in the latest New York Review of Books, about the impact of the British Mandate. He quotes the pro-Arab Sir Harold Beeley that the British encouraged the Arabs not to accept partition in 1947 and convinced them that they, with British support, would win the war against the new state and drive the Jews out. A similar mood of malevolent self-deception prevails in much of the Arab world today. The PLO is and has always been too scared of agreeing to a genuine settlement for fear that the Arab street would decimate them as quislings. But also because everyone else in the Muslim world, Europe, and beyond keeps whispering that if they hold out they’ll get a better deal.

At the same time, right-wing Israelis delude themselves that they can defy the rest of the world. I pray that Lapid can perform a miracle, get Tzipi Livni, Shelly Yachimovich, and the rest of the secular moderates to join him and Bibi to recalibrate Israeli society, establish a Palestinian state, and stop further settlement expansion. Allow the Palestinians to declare their own independence and leave them to make a success or a mess of it (with fences, drones, and electronic surveillance Israel can still keep its tabs on security). It is pointless to wait for negotiations that cannot work. Hamas would never concede what Abu Mazen might, in his dreams; and Abu Maazen will not concede anything that might get him assassinated. But to hold ordinary people hostage on either side is no solution either.

If Lapid (with or without Bibi’s help) could achieve these three goals of conciliation with the Arabs, refusing to concede to the Charedi world, and facing up to corruption, I might even declare him the Messiah. I would certainly institute a new Jewish holiday, the Festival of Sanity, and promptly break open the best single malt I could lay my hands on.


  • thank you so very much, jeremy
    i do not like to talk on the phone as i can not see the other person and i dislike “tools” like skype
    but i will keep your # and i might surprise even myself…
    be good, be well
    your prayers are precious to us

  • Yes Pim
    I fear you may be right. Words are one thing. Actions another. We shall see but after so much disappointment I desperately want to be optimistic.

    • pim meibosch

      dear Jeremy
      this is Nana, Pim’s wife.
      on the 28 january 2 days after his last comunocation to you) pim suffered a major stroke and that is why you did not hear from him since.
      he is in rehab.
      his right side is not functioning.
      unable to speak, write or read.
      now that he is in a wheelchair he moves himself from spot to spot by his left hand and foot.
      me and him have a comunication going on, limited but it is there.
      i am sorry that i am a bearer of sad news but i think you are one of the few people he enjoyed having a contact with.
      if there are mistakes in my spelling-please forgive…
      with respect and regrets,

      • Nana

        I am so so sorry to hear about Pim.
        Is there some way I can speak to him over the phone or send him an email directly?
        Please please give him my love and I am praying for a quick recovery.

        • nana meibosch

          dear friend jeremy,
          thank you for your kind and warm words.
          pim’s speech is non verbal, there is a sort of aphasia in his condition.
          there is no interest whatsoever in mailing and computers as such.
          i will tell him about you and i will describe to you his reaction.
          i promise.
          be good
          and thank you again

          • Nana
            Please do call me if you feel like talking
            My number is 347 233 0002
            You and Pim are in my thoughts and prayers.




    Hear our prayer
    We have sinned before thee
    Have compassion upon us and upon our children
    Help us bring an end to pestilence, war, and famine
    Cause all hate and oppression to vanish from the earth
    Inscribe us for blessing in the book of life
    Let the new year be a good year for us


Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Blogs Sports Dodgers Power-Hitter Could Break Stereotype of Jews in Sports

    Dodgers Power-Hitter Could Break Stereotype of Jews in Sports

    Rookie player for the Dodgers Joc Pederson may boost the image of Jewish athletes if he can prove he has both brains and brawn, according to an article in the Daily Beast on Sunday. The piece pointed out a longstanding stereotype of Jews as more brainy than brawny, and asserted that Pederson could break the stereotype. Indeed, the 23-year-old’s “power-hitting” performance thus far has been considered rare among Jewish athletes. “If Pederson sustains his performance for any length of time, he could be the first respected, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Jerry Seinfeld to Make Comedy Debut in Israel

    Jerry Seinfeld to Make Comedy Debut in Israel – Famed Jewish-American comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld is slated to make his comedic debut in Israel later this year. Seinfeld, who was born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents from the Ukraine and Syria, will perform in Tel Aviv’s Mitvtachim Menorah Arena on Dec. 19 as part of a world tour. The comedian is most known for his enormously popular NBC sitcom Seinfeld, which ran from 1989-1998 and is widely considered one of the greatest TV series of all time. […]

    Read more →
  • Food Israel New Video Shows American Kids Reviewing Israeli Food After Tasting Dishes for First Time (VIDEO)

    New Video Shows American Kids Reviewing Israeli Food After Tasting Dishes for First Time (VIDEO)

    A new video circulating online shows eight American children reacting — mostly positively — to their first taste of the famed Israeli eggplant salad/dip, known in Hebrew as “salat hatzilim” and in other parts of the Levant as baba ganoush. The clip, created by, features the youngsters trying a variety of exotic dishes from other countries as well, such as Hawaiian poi, Colombian pork belly and Russian borscht. The Israeli delicacies served include schnitzel, slices of pita, hummus and the baba ganoush salad. “If someone […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Pioneers/Philanthropists ‘Start-Up Nation’ Israel to Host Forbes Magazine Young Entrepreneurs Summit

    ‘Start-Up Nation’ Israel to Host Forbes Magazine Young Entrepreneurs Summit – Forbes magazine announced Tuesday that it will host its Under 30 EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Summit in Israel for the first time in April 2016. The conference is expected to bring together some 600 young entrepreneurs, with 200 from Europe, 200 from the U.S., and 200 from Israel. The summit has been hosted in Philadelphia for the past two years. It will include presentations, speeches, a pitch competition, and cultural immersion opportunities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Beliefs and concepts What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David?

    What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David? –  “What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    Israel is a holiday destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. No matter the style of holiday you are after, Israel has the answer. Whether you prefer to relax by the beach, hike up mountains in the desert, visit religious and historical sites, eat your way through the country or just enjoy some retail therapy, your journey through Israel will be one to remember. While there are obviously so many things to see and do, here is a list of 10 of […]

    Read more →
  • Pioneers/Philanthropists US & Canada Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO

    Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO – Jewish American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren announced his plan to step down as chief executive officer of the renowned fashion brand. The head of Gap Inc’s Old Navy brand will take over the position. The 75-year-old Lauren, who founded Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1967, will continue to serve as executive chairman and will continue leading the fashion house’s design team, according to a statement by the company. After the announcement, Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent while Gap shares […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports US & Canada Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout. Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout. Read full story at JTA.

    Read more →