Yair Lapid, Israel's 'Golden Boy,' Crashes to Earth in Austerity Push

Middle Class Backers Furious Over Harsh Budget Cuts


By Reuters

Published May 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Just months after a dazzling political debut, Israel’s new finance minister Yair Lapid has come crashing down to earth with a budget that critics say hits the very people he vowed to protect – the middle classes.

The deficit-cutting package was approved by the cabinet early on Tuesday and now passes to parliament, where Lapid faces a buoyant opposition eager to damage the rookie politician whose seemingly impregnable image has suddenly shattered.

Propelled by his movie-star good looks, Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party came second in January’s election, winning over almost every undecided voter in the final days of the campaign to the dismay of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But in barely two weeks, his poll ratings have nosedived, his ever-active Facebook page has become a wall of abuse and his many enemies are already writing his political obituary.

“Yair Lapid is finished. Wiped out. Done for,” said a column in Israel’s centre-left Haaretz newspaper on Sunday.

With the new government only two months old, news of Lapid’s demise is greatly exaggerated and a swift turnaround of state accounts in 2014 could yet propel the former television host towards his coveted goal – to become prime minister.

Experts have calculated that the austerity measures will cost the average Israeli household an amount equivalent to nearly one month’s average gross salary over a year.

Economists say the much-maligned budget, which mixes tax rises with spending cuts, does however stand a good chance of achieving its goal and reducing the deficit to three percent of gross domestic product in 2014 from a projected 4.65 percent this year.

But besides hoping his maths are right, Lapid is going to have to work hard to convince his sceptical supporters that he can live up to his campaign rhetoric and tackle powerful forces in Israeli society, such as the unions and corporate giants.

“I am sad about the reaction to the budget,” said Dov Lipman, a rabbi and one of Yesh Atid’s 19 parliamentarians.

“Challenging the unions and the monopolies are goals of ours, but a decision was made that this was not the right time. The economy cannot be fixed overnight,” he told Reuters.

“SET UP”

Many people were surprised when Lapid emerged from coalition negotiations as the finance minister. Although one of his campaign slogans had been “Where’s the Money?”, he himself had no economic background and wanted to become foreign minister.


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!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • 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.