Ben Caspit
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
January 25, 2013 - 1:00am

The day after the election, I was reminded of that TV moment in which the interviewer, Yair Lapid, asked the interviewee, his father Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, “What is an ‘Israeli,’ in your eyes?” Dear old Tommy smiled for a second, his eyes sparkled, and he said: “You.”

He was right. Yair Lapid is what we want the perfect Israeli to look like.

The good old Israel, liberal, secular, pragmatic and polite, the Israel of its dreamers and founders.

In its place, there emerged in recent years a completely different Israel, one that is extremist, inflammatory, violence, racist and scary to all those around it, including ourselves.

An Israel that grew wild in the backyard of Binyamin Netanyahu, a leader who heard voices and saw visions, allowed the hotheads in his party to oust Dan Meridor, Bennie Begin and Michael Eitan, and lacked the courage or strength to stop it.

So we brought him Yair. We placed him next to the prime minister at the wheel, to assist him in driving. The problem is that this new driver is a student driver. On the other hand, the original driver is a drunk driver. So let them try to drive together! Ultimately, three simple things happened in this election: 

• Kadima was torn apart and reconstructed, to the benefit of Yair Lapid.

• The Likud and Yisrael Beytenu were torn apart and reconstructed, then merged, also to the benefit of Yair Lapid.

• The two opposing blocs finished in a near-dead heat, primarily because of the precise plan by Lapid to scare Likudniks and offer them a warm and sane home.

All these things were done by Netanyahu himself, by himself.

After the election, when Netanyahu followed Lapid’s messages and promised that “we will work together to do great things,” I asked myself what it was exactly that had prevented Bibi from doing these “great things” a few months ago, when he was still “King Bibi” and he had a coalition of 90 MKs, together with Shaul Mofaz’s Kadima.

Why did he not then, when he had all the power, change the system and order an equal sharing of the national burden? The answer is simple: Netanyahu will always do the worst possible thing at the worst possible time. And when he finally reaches a dead end that forces him to do the right thing, then it’s either too late or it’s at a price that’s too high.

That’s why he’s doing the right thing now, when he has been crushed and humbled, dependent on the grace of others.

It’s impossible not to remember another small moment in our political history, when Ariel Sharon was asked by his people after the crisis with Netanyahu in the Likud what he would do about Bibi. He replied, “Don’t worry about Bibi, he will take care of himself.”

“Lapid’s Cellar” is what once was Sharon’s “Farm Forum” and Ehud Olmert’s “Balfour Forum.” Lapid’s associates gathered there in the the past year every Tuesday, sometimes on a Friday.

As they approached the election, the meetings became more frequent, in the cellar of Lapid’s home in Ramat Aviv.

Those attending included Yesh Atid’s director-general, Hillel Kobrinsky, producer and Lapid’s friend Danny Vesely, close friend Ofer Shelah, close confidant Uri Shani and publicist Yoram Bauman. A quality team, discrete, polite and loyal.

If only Netanyahu would wake up one morning, get rid of the fans and photographers who surround him, and set up a similar forum. (Don’t worry, it’ll never happen. His wife won’t let him.) By the way, Lapid’s wife and partner, Lihi, did not sit in the Lapid’s Cellar forum. She would wait upstairs. After the meetings, they would all go up, and sometimes eat something, and sometimes watch a game of soccer (Lapid and Bauman are big Maccabi Tel Aviv fans.) That’s how it happened.


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