Skip to 05:00 for start of Yair Lapid’s speech to congress of Rabbinical Assembly rabbis.
In an eloquent speech to the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism in Atlanta, US, Lapid passionately told the audience that most Israelis belong to the “conservative” [stream] but don’t know it yet”.
As I wrote in my opinion piece on the startling political turn of events which took place yesterday, I speculated that Mofaz took this initiative in order to bypass the ultra-orthodox parties and pass much needed electoral reform legislation to ensure that their power is permanently curtailed.
Lapid was highly critical of the move and bemoaned the fact on his facebook page that the deal represented a return to the “old politics” of corrupt practices and the sacrifice of “principles for jobs”. On the contrary I would say that Mofaz’s actions could mean that Lapid will actually end up as a major beneficiary of this development in the medium to long-term.
What Lapid fails to understand is that Mofaz grasped a historic opportunity which doesn’t come around very often. This unprecedented coalition provides the wide political cover necessary to make real changes away from the current proportional representation system which gives disproportionate power to the Haredi parties relative to their real electoral and demographic strength. Current trends show the ultra-orthodox population is continuing to grow exponentially, so this problem is likely to only grow more pronounced in the coming years. While we should respect the rights of the ultra-orthodox community to practice their form of Judaism as they see fit, they should not be granted the power to impose their extreme brand of the religion on the rest of the population. This is the current status-quo in Israel today, mainly because of how the system is set-up and their astute manipulation of rules of the game for their own narrow interests.
If Mofaz and Netanyahu can change the political status-quo by reforming the electoral system, it would actually benefit moderate parties such as Yair Lapid’s “Yesh Atid” (there is a future) which represent the views of the vast majority of moderate Israelis. It is all very well and good standing up for such noble principles as ensuring equal rights for all streams of Judaism as Lapid declared, but if the requisite political power to make those decisions is not there, such principles turn into empty words without action. The Netanyahu-Mofaz move may not have been pretty, but if you want to defeat your political foes and gain power to implement what you believe in, sometimes you have to play dirty and surprise the opposition. This is exactly what the Prime Minister and the new honorable Minister without Portfolio have done.