Yair Lapid, Telegenic Kingmaker, Has Rough Road Ahead

Centrist Star Wants To Build Coalition But It Won't Be Easy

Shrinking Center: He’s Israel’s man of the moment. But things are about to get very, very tricky for Yair Lapid.
getty images
Shrinking Center: He’s Israel’s man of the moment. But things are about to get very, very tricky for Yair Lapid.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published January 24, 2013, issue of February 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

This could be a pipe dream, though. However moderate the two leaders’ personal images, Lapid’s hand-picked team is well to his left and Bennett’s bench is uniformly on the right. Lapid’s top lieutenants include two determined advocates of Palestinian statehood, freezing settlements and 1967 borders with land swaps: former Shin Bet director Yaakov Peri and Herzliya Mayor Yael German, a longtime stalwart of the left-wing Meretz. Most of their caucus agrees. Bennett’s party, on the other hand, is utterly opposed to any Palestinian statehood; indeed, at least six of his 10 lieutenants have spent their careers in militant settler activism. For that matter, about half of Netanyahu’s caucus flat-out opposes Palestinian statehood and dismisses Bibi’s own two-state talk as just so much diplomatic humbug. Further complicating matters, the rest of Lapid’s bench consists of liberal warriors for women’s rights, religious pluralism and similar social causes, all flatly opposed by Bennett’s hard-line conservative crew.

Even if they find a common language, a 63-seat majority is impossibly unstable. How do they bulk up? Looking to their right, they find the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism. Both are implacably opposed to drafting yeshiva students, the sole basis for Lapid’s signing on. On the left they meet Tzipi Livni, whose platform begins and ends with Palestinian statehood.

Lapid’s alternative, joining fellow liberals Livni and Yachimovich in a left-leaning coalition, is no less complicated. They begin with 60 seats. This shuts out Netanyahu by denying him a 61-seat majority. But it doesn’t give them a majority. Moreover, their 60 seats include 12 members of anti-Zionist, Arab-backed parties that have never been part of an Israeli coalition. The liberal trio could theoretically woo over a few lawmakers from the right and form a minority government, relying on tacit Arab backing. But no lawmakers on the right would agree to be part of it.

To form a governing coalition, then, they need to bring over the two Haredi parties en bloc, Shas and United Torah Judaism. Happily, neither party opposes Palestinian statehood in theory. As non-Zionist Haredi parties, they don’t regard Israel as the biblical Jewish kingdom, and therefore the Torah’s promised borders having no bearing on policy.

Rumors are flying, too, of back-channel outreach to the left from members of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu third of the combined Likud-Beiteinu list who might cross over if the Haredim do. Many in Lieberman’s devoutly secular group don’t object to Palestinian statehood — in fact, they’d be happy to include Israeli Arab villages in a land swap.

As for Shas, its leaders have stated repeatedly that they could join either side this year. One, party founder Aryeh Deri, who was jailed in 2000 for taking bribes but reclaimed a top spot this year, is a staunch dove and social democrat. His return appears to have tipped the party leftward.

Of course, that puts the kibosh on drafting yeshiva students. Did we mention that this is messy?

Lapid has about a week or two from election day to tell the president which of his principles he wants to betray. When the countdown begins depends, perhaps appropriately, on how long it takes to tally absentee ballots from diplomats, soldiers, prisoners and institutionalized mental patients. The outcome will determine Israel’s future.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.