Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Likud Primary—and Yair Lapid?

By Tuvia Brodie

I do not know television personality Yair Lapid. I have never met him. I had never seen him on television. I have only seen photos of him—and yes, he is photogenic; or, if he isn’t photogenic, he certainly has a good photographer and a great make-up artist. Lucky man; I’m jealous. He has recently announced that he will enter politics, to run in the next national election. Even though he appears to have no political, leadership or civic experience, he apparently uses his good looks and TV fame to catapult into the spotlight. ‘Catapult into’ is a courageous concept for Israeli politics because Israel’s political stage seems crowded with big people with huge personalities and very sharp elbows. But how else would you characterize the impact of a neophyte who will—it is commonly said—put Kadima out of business?

It is a stunning example of power in the public arena: one man, with no political experience and few publicly revealed ideas, can threaten to shut down Israel’s second leading political Party, just on his looks and TV work! To put this into perspective, can you imagine an American TV personality—say, Jon Stewart or David Letterman—shutting down the Republican Party simply by running for President? In America, that would never happen: the political parties are more powerful than any media personality.

I’d like to meet Lapid’s photographer. Even his hairdresser would do. If that’s all it takes to make a splash in Israel, I could go far, especially with a make-up artist.

And yet, despite—or because of-- his reported lack of political experience, Lapid has said something worthwhile. As Arutz Sheva has reported ( Lapid Rules out joining Kadima, Eldad Benari, January 20, 2012), Lapid has posted on his Facebook page the statement that he will not join Kadima because Kadima politicians do not ‘have any idea what—if anything—they believe in’. Naturally, this may be a minority opinion—his own. But it has significant meaning for Likud members who will vote January 31 for their next head-of-Likud. They would be wise to listen to the inexperienced Lapid. If he’s right, Likud could be in trouble.

As some have already pointed out, the Israeli public wants leaders who believe in something and can communicate that belief. Lapid appears to understand this. He rejects Kadima because, he claims, they lack it. Likud voters, however, face the same issue. If they are not careful, they could create a Likud where Party leaders ‘do not know what—if anything—they believe in’—and, as Lapid has just suggested, the one thing this nation’s public does not crave is a politician who believes in nothing.

This is not public stupidity or one person’s opinion. It is an example of citizens’ understanding a universal truth which politicians may not appreciate. In America, there is a book entitled, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,’ by Stephen Covey. It’s been in print since 1989, and is one of the most influential business books ever written. Part of the book highlights values-based decision-making, which teaches how to make decisions that are consistent with our ‘true-North’ values—principles that guide us without shifting because of expediency or opportunity. Decisions based on shifting values too often lead to inconsistent results (which satisfy no one) and frustration. This is what Lapid is telling us: to be successful, you must first believe in something bigger than you. It’s a universal truth; it’s what makes that American book so powerful.

Where is the threat to Likud? The Likud Platform is strongly pro-Israel. It takes a strong stance on Jerusalem (it belongs to Israel), Judea and Samaria (they are part of Israel’s ancestral homeland) and the Jordan River Valley (it must stay under Israel control). That’s so clear, one might borrow from Lapid’s Facebook statement (above) and ask, ‘Isn’t that clear enough?’

Yes, it is.

Nevertheless, Likud has a problem-- Mr. Netanyahu. He rejects everything Likud believes in. Now, he seeks an overwhelming vote of confidence from the January 31 primary (at least 81 per cent of total vote), to ensure that his control over Likud is absolute. This is where the risk is: if the Platform says one thing and Netanyahu does the opposite with impunity, then Likud becomes meaningless. What do Likud leaders believe in when they select a Head who rejects everything? Make no mistake: the leader who rejects everything believes in nothing; and the same is true for those who vote for him.

I know nothing about Yair Lapid. For all I know, he could get eaten alive in Israel’s political arena—and deserve it. But on this subject, he’s got it right. He understands that if you believe in nothing—or if you reject everything your ‘family’ believes-- you lose. This could not be clearer than in Lapid's own analysis of the upcoming Likud primaries at his coming out party. Lapid stated that a victory or strong showing by Moshe Feiglin (the only faith -based candidate and true-to-the-Likud values Likudnik) would move the Likud to the right where they would pick up more Knesset seats in the next national elections. To prevent this, he then urged Likud voters to vote for Mr. Netanyahu.

Is this what the Likud voter wants?

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