“My name is Yair Lapid, and I’m wearing a tie”. Those were the first words Yair Lapid chose to open his first ever news broadcast. And it was not just any old news broadcast, it was “Ulpan Shishi” (“Studio Friday”), Channel 2’s leading weekend programme. British Lapid had been given the role following a hugely successful talk show, and a top-rated article in Yediot Achronot’s weekend entertainment supplement “shiva yamim” (“seven days”). Lapid’s weekly article was a feuilleton, dealing with family affairs, and lifestyle, rather than politics. This path, the feuilleton’s path, is key to understanding Lapid’s role as Israel’s “horseman of ignorance”.
A writer of feuilletons does not need to be the world’s greatest journalist, he just needs to know how to tell a funny story and make the readers feel good about themselves. And that is how Lapid sees the world: as one big feuilleton, and as such, whatever looks and sounds good – is key to him personally.
When he began “sniffing” his way into politics, he decided to get a PhD, for very self-explanatory benefits to his public and political persona. Yet he has no second or first degrees in anything really, not even a “Bagrut certificate” which certifies one has finished high school. Many of his shambolic articles are riddled with basic factual errors, such as naming the Polish Copernicus as one of the great Greek thinkers of the classical age, and placing Alberto Giacometti alongside Leonardo de Vinci and other great artists of the Renaissance. In a different piece he congratulated the American constitution for being written not by a committee, but rather “by one guy called John Adams” (James Madison is recognised as the key author). Most notoriously, while quoting the British Victorian prime minister Benjamin Disraeli in his response to Daniel O’Connell, Lapid translated “forefathers” into literally “four fathers”.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg! In 2017, he wrote a book called “a journey into the future” which compiled his many words of wisdom, such as the saying “schools are built, and nations are formed around them”, and also the quite ludicrous claim that “Reagan and Thatcher would be considered moderate centrists today”. A similar claim about Michael Foot or Lenin was not found.
The “moderate centrists” bit is not accidental – Lapid is the great champion of centrist politics in Israel. But while parties such as the Lib-Dems promote centrism out of a clear ideology, Lapid’s centrism is only a means to reach the largest and shallowest of common denominators. He is an expert in boiling things down to their most basic components, and always seeking the shallowest source of support.
There is no better example for this behaviour than in a post he wrote in the week before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year Holiday. On Facebook, Lapid said he wanted more women in power and the military saying: “I believe equality doesn’t come by itself. History tells us we cannot wait. ‘history’ comes from the English words ‘his story’. His story, a man’s story”. You read that right. Israel’s future prime minister thinks “history”, a Greek word for “research”, is actually a misogynistic English fusion.
All of this and much-much more paints a grim picture of a man who is either naïve beyond belief, and thinks the whole world is one big feuilleton, or as a ruthless post-modernist that lives and breathes spin, a man who would say whatever sounds or looks good at that moment. Both options are horrific for Israel, and the truth, as always, is probably somewhere in the middle.