I am going to enjoy the next four political years very much. I have been following Israeli politics since I made aliyah 22 years ago, and one pattern emerges over and over. Someone starts his political life by claiming that noone represents the “center”. He then gets popular by proposing that he is a centrist, creates a new party, gets voted in with a lot of mandates (but not the majority, of course)….and then has to hit Israeli reality. Israeli reality in this case is that the Arabs will not let us alone, ever, and you have to choose sides – either you are right wing and security comes first, or you are left wing and you are willing to risk your security and make concessions. Being in the middle and not choosing is not an option for the majority party. After the first few years in the Knesset this “central” party gets less popular, until it completely dies. (Kadima is the latest party in the cycle.)
There is also another pattern that repeats itself. Journalists criticize politicians mercilessly, and make it sound as if they know better and could do a much better job themselves. Then they actually start to believe their own propaganda, run for the Knesset and sometimes get in….and then hit Israeli reality. Israeli reality in this case is that it is fiendishly hard to unite Israeli Jews enough to get anything done, and that you cannot please everyone all of the time. You also cannot ignore the responsibility of seeing the whole picture and just do what you want with the resources at hand – you have to work with other people and compromise (which these journalists have always called “selling out”).
Yair Lapid has followed both of these patterns. I don’t like him at all because I think he is a pretty boy with very little substance, and I resent how he came to power on so many people’s naive belief that he is the “savior of the middle class”. I am going to enjoy watching him learn a lot of things: that it really is harder than it looks to be a good public servant, that the people who love you when you first start running have very little patience with the realities of governing, and that there are no magic cures for the problems we face here. I hope he realizes how arrogant he was and learns a bit of humility. It might happen naturally while he actually works as a politician, or it might come as a shock after the next time he runs for Knesset and doesn’t get the same number of mandates – but it will happen at some point. Maybe I will like him a bit better then.
In the meantime it is going to be fun.