I love Israel. I love Israel because even though I could live in many other states in the world, this is the only state that for better or worse is mine, and in which I feel truly at home. I love the country’s human diversity, its history, scenery, its flora and fauna. I am proud of the scientific, technological, artistic and sports achievements of its citizens. I get tears in my eyes at the sound of “Hatikvah,” and when I see an El Al plane, with the Israeli flag on its tail, in a foreign airport.
And yet, at the sight of our self-appointed foreign minister, MK Yair Lapid, standing on a podium in a square in Stockholm, encouraging the audience of a few hundred to shout “I love Israel,” I flinched with shame and embarrassment, because the scene was pathetic, and Lapid, who sees himself as a serious contender for the premiership, looked and sounded like a complete idiot.
It is no secret that the Swedes are not exactly lovers of Zion, and given the fact that they elected a Social Democrat/ Green government they have many ideological reasons not to love Israel, both for its policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the future of the territories, and because of its swinish variety of economic neo-liberalism. But we Israelis, who elected a right-wing/religious government, are not exactly lovers of the Vikings, with their inclination for pacifism, their developed welfare state, and concern (some would say hypocritical concern) for human rights. So what?
Lapid also used his podium in Stockholm to openly criticize Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallström, who is known for her hostility toward Israel. I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if the leader of a Swedish opposition party stood in the middle of a square in Jerusalem and spoke against our foreign minister/ prime minister. We would all yell bloody murder, and if members of “La Familia” (a fanatical group of Beitar Jerusalem soccer team fans) were to get anywhere close to him – God save him. None of this is what diplomacy is about, mister claimant to the premiership!
Recent opinion polls show Yesh Atid emerging as Israel’s largest parliamentary group if elections were to be held today – receiving well over double its current 11 Knesset seats. These opinion polls show Labor power crashing, and the Likud losing a fifth of its current seats.
If Netanyahu had gotten his way in changing the Basic Law: the Government, so that the leader of the list receiving the most mandates would be the one to form the new government, according to the new opinion polls Lapid would be Israel’s prime minister if elections were to be held today.
Netanyahu must be counting his lucky stars that his proposal did not become law. Perhaps he will also rethink his inclination to propose constitutional changes to suit his conjunctural political interests, and start thinking in terms of what is best for Israel’s very problematic political reality in the long term.
That, of course, is not very likely, because one of the things Israel needs to deal with the explosive political situation is a prime minister – whether from the Right, Left or Center – intent on reducing the schisms and lowering the flames. Time and again (most recently over the Saturday railway works scandal) Netanyahu proves that he isn’t such a prime minister.
Under the current system, even if the election results were to correspond to the recent opinion polls, Lapid would not be selected by the president to form the next government, because there is no chance he would be able to muster a majority to do so.
The fact is that the meteoric rise of Yesh Atid has not occurred at the expense of the Likud, but at the expense of the Labor Party and Kulanu. The Likud loses seats to Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu, while the haredi parties gain seats because their electoral base keeps growing due to natural causes. According to the opinion polls Israel’s Arab citizens are also no more inclined to flock the polling stations than they were in the elections to the 20th Knesset, for if they were they could increase their representation to 20 or more seats, and thus change the Left/Arab – Right/religious balance. The opinion polls show them staying with their 13.
Incidentally, I cannot say that I am sorry that Lapid is unlikely to emerge as Israel’ next prime minister. He is a charming, some would say good looking simpleton, lacking both a formal education and experience, and the fact that he has done so well in the recent opinion polls is merely an indication that the Israeli Center is completely desperate, willing to replace one egomaniac with another for lack of any other visible alternative.
In fact, in the current circumstances the only chance of sending Netanyahu packing is if all his past, present and potential victims from within the Likud – including Moshe Kahlon, Gideon Sa’ar, Moshe Ya’alon, Yisrael Katz and Gilad Erdan – were to decide to act in unison to ensure that this happens, either from within or outside the Likud.
Yes – I love Israel, and if I must choose among Netanyahu, Lapid and the medley of Netanyahu victims, I will opt for the latter. At the moment the Labor Party is not a realistic option. But if the next elections are held in 2019, who knows what could happen.
The writer is a political scientist.