Political neophyte Yair Lapid gave his first television interview since announcing his entry into politics, on Channel 2 evening news on Tuesday. The media man thus generated plenty of media, from journos eagerly waiting for him to move his message beyond cyber-campaigning into the traditional realm.
Much of the interview involved the usual politicking and dancing around questions. Then to my surprise, Lapid did something that hardly any of the other candidates did during the almost-campaign kick-off last month, and certainly haven’t dared to do since: He mentioned the P-word. Or if you will, the C-word.
Not only did Lapid dare to raise the topic of Palestinians and the conflict, but he actually said something bold and accurate, and he seemed to mean it:
Benjamin Netanyahu has a coalition today that is leading him to places that make the State of Israel look leprous around the world. The fact that he is a good English speaker – and he is a good English speaker – does not salvage the situation. Here is the situation we’re in: Binyamin Netanyahu has decided that he does not care to do anything so that there will ever be a chance of peace for the State of Israel.
What does it mean that we’re not sitting at the negotiating table? That means that he took the most complicated, bloodiest problem of the State of Israel – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and said: “I am not interested in it. I’m too afraid of [far-right Likud member Moshe] Feiglin, I’m too afraid of [Likud faction chairman Zeev] Elkin – I don’t care about the Palestinian problem – I’ll kick it over to our children, let them break their heads over it.” That is irresponsible. (Here’s the full interview, in Hebrew)
It’s been hard to discern just what Lapid really stands for, other than his declaration that he represents a middle class, when everyone knows he represents the upper class. But if the determination in his eyes was any indication, this conflict is pressing for him – which is more than can be said for any current leader in Israel today.
Two minor points were disappointing: first, the print media coverage in several papers I saw followed up this quote by noting that Lapid refused to give a straight answer about whether he would join the Netanyahu government or not – which was the next question asked. Why didn’t any of the articles point out that now Lapid owes the public a detailed description of his approach to the conflict?
Why didn’t the mainly-excellent Yonit Levy, the Channel 2 anchorwoman who interviewed him, follow up and say: “Well, Mr. Lapid, that’s quite a strong statement you’ve just made. How would your approach to the conflict differ from Mr. Netanyahu’s? What is your vision for a resolution, and how do you propose breaking the current deadlock to get there? How would you work more cooperatively with the rest of the world on this? More specifically: would you stop settlement construction in order to re-start negotiations?”
Second (and this really is so fussy), consider that last line: “[Netanyahu says] ‘I don’t care about the Palestinian problem…’ ”
It could have been an oversight. But if Lapid believes that it’s a “Palestinian problem” rather than a huge problem between Israel and the Palestinians – well, that’s a problem.