Thursday, January 24, 2013

Yair Lapid: No Grasp of History, No Plan for the Future

Liberal Jews and other moderate types who wish Israel well are positively tripping over each other in trying to cast Yair Lapid as the savior of all that is good and decent in Israel, and as the person who will somehow bring Israel to its senses regarding its "Palestinian Question." My advise to them: "Don't hold your breathe."

Here are a few quotes from Lapid that should clarify some of his positions and his general seriousness re policy (as opposed to electoral politics.)

"I do not think that the Arabs want peace."
Here we have him channeling both Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, the leaders of the outgoing coalition. (And, as a matter of fact, ignoring the Saudi - Arab League peace plan, Abbas's own claims, and the opinion of Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Lini who conducted the last serious round of negotiations with Abbas.)

"I do not care what the Arabs want. What I want is not a new Middle East, but to be rid of them and put a tall fence between us and them."
Here we have him channeling Ariel Sharon, the father of the  "unilateral separation" that brought us the current mess in Gaza and Israel's security barrier (aka "Apartheid Wall") built well into the occupied West Bank. He is also echoing Avigdor Lieberman here. And while this may have helped him win votes with Lieberman's base - after Lieberman merged his party into the Likud -  this attitude is only going exacerbate Israels problems with its own Palestinian citizens.

"The important thing is to maintain a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel."
Here he echoing the pat consensus of Israeli (and perhaps Diaspora) Jews. But in Lapid's case, this is the only thing motivating him to give up some of the occupied territories. This is not a basis for peace, but rather a basis for Palestinians bantustans - or if you prefer Indian reservations.

"The Palestinians must be brought to an understanding that Jerusalem will always remain under Israeli sovereignty and that there is no point for them in opening negotiations about Jerusalem. We have no existence without Jerusalem. The Tower of David is important for Israel's heritage and existence, because it is more than a tower, it is a symbol. It is more important than the Azrieli Towers [a large luxury condominium] in Tel Aviv." 
Here he is putting the spokes in any negotiated peace plan. The Palestinians will not agree to anything that does not give them at least some parts in Jerusalem  Why or how  he thinks the Palestinians "can be brought to understand this" when they haven't done so yet, is completely beyond him. (And why they need to understand anything - when he has already stated they don't want peace and he favours unilateral action - is just one of many contradictions in his "made for TV" platform.)

And his final remarks, re symbolic importance to Israel's heritage of the Tower of David, is just laughably ignorant (though perhaps sadly typical of too many Israelis). The Tower of David is a citadel complex and tower standing next to the Jaffa Gate in the old city of Jerusalem.  It was built by the Ottoman Turks in 1541.  The tower itself was originally built as a minaret  The Ottoman complex was built on the site of previous fortifications (Crusader, Arab, Byzantine, Roman.) The very first fortification on the site was built by King Herod (hardly a glorious Jewish figure) just as Judea was slipping from a Roman vassal state to a direct province of the Roman Empire. Nothing remains of the Herodian structures. The site was first misidentified as the location of King David's palace by the Byzantines, and the tower itself did not begin to be called The Tower of David until approximately 1600. During the British Mandate period it was turned into a museum of Palestinian Arab folklore.

This kind of cheap - and ignorant - emotionalism should not surprise us. We should not forget that Yair Lapid's only claim to fame before entering politics a year ago was a a handsome television host, who never offended of challenged his guests. And of course, that his father also started a political party that meteorically shot to ascension. That party, Shinui, garnered 15 seats in the 2003 elections, and the elder Lapid served as Minister of Justice in the government of Ariel Sharon. The party managed to get almost none its platform implemented, was wracked by internal dissension and completely disappeared from the electoral scene in the elections of 2006. It is generally believed that the elder Lapid was a lot smarter and more principled then his son. Although a lot less photogenic.

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