I'm sure I'm not the first person to write this: there oughtta be a law that says that politicians are legally bound to hold by their election platform and campaign promises once elected. Otherwise they would be charged with contempt of the electorate and removed from office. The one downside I can think of with this is, of course, that we would have dozens of elections every year, each one right after the last. But eventually we might just get someone who actually tries to keep his promises. I wonder what that kind of government would be like.
Yair Lapid, charismatic Israeli journalist and son of famous politician Tommy Lapid recently threw his hat into the ring as a politician when he became frustrated with the state of the State today. And who can blame him? On one side are the very rich Israelis who control the economy and major political parties to ensure that they get richer while the average Israeli continues to struggle along or sinks. On the other side is the growing Chareidi community which, while spewing venom on a regular basis towards the State, never seems to tire of taking money from it while insisting on its right to continue to be an economic drain within in. The wonder isn't that Lapid was angered enough to leave his lucrative job in television to become a politician but that he isn't currently running at 90% popularity amongst secular Israelis.
Lapid has now released the initial parts of his platform and the components are entirely predictable. He has railed against both the very rich and the Chareidi community, the former for their role in choking the prosperity of Israel's middle class and the latter for their role in grabbing all they can of the State's largesse while refusing to contribute towards the development of the economy.
There is no doubt that the Chareidi press will portray Lapid as the son of his father, the old religious-baiter who never met a Chareidi he liked. What it will not do is take a moment to engage in a good ol' fashioned cheshbon hanefesh, just like it didn't when Shinui grabbed 15 seats in the Knesset a few elections ago. For the Chareidi PR machine and their black and white thinking, anything other than fawning admiration of their community is hatred of Torah, hatred of Judaism, hatred of God, etc.
But really the situation is deeper than that. Imagine a Chareidi community is which the truly elite sat in kollel and became the next generation of religious scholars while the vast majority, ambitious and intelligent as they are, turned their proclivities towards becoming economically productive. It's one thing to accuse Chilonim of being Judaism-haters when they decry the Chareidim for being extremist parasites but would they still be so anti-religious if the criticisms were of Chareidi economic success?
The Chareidi community, for all its howling otherwise, is the architest of its own misfortunes. There is no doubt that there are many in the secular community who need no excuse to hate them but they are a minority when compared with the multitudes that see Torah and Judaism in a negative light specifically because the bad elements of the Chareidi velt insist on handing them a new reason each week. And Lapid's throwing down of the gauntlet is a challenge to them: will they continue to have a disproportionate say in how the State runs? Will they continue to expand their misogynistic efforts to remove women from any public view despite the opposition of the vast majority of the people around them, many of them Torah-observant?
There are only three problems with Lapid's solutions. The first is that time is not on his side. While there are many who love to point out the high rate of defection from the Chareidi community to the OTD world it is still much smaller than the community's birth rate. And when one takes into account the low birth rate in the secular community, one realizes that Lapid is running against the clock.
The second is that the opponents of his changes will not take his attempts to win the election quietly. It is not in the interests of Israeli's corrupt aristocracy to allow a liberalizing of the Israeli economy that will decrease their wealth while spreading it to the middle class. Does Lapid believe they will quietly go one sipping their fine wines on their terraces in Kfar Shmaryahu as he roils the population up against them? Or will large amounts of money be spent to prevent his efforts from succeeding?
The third is the question of what Lapid will actually do should he win the next election? For this there is an unfortunate precedent: his father, Tommy. Recall that Shinui got 15 seats in their greatest election and a seat at a cabinet in which only three parties were involved, none of them Chareidi. Yet the system did not change, the govenrment continued to function as it had previously and Shinui virtually disappeared in the next election after a series of scandals showed that its MK's were as corrupt and self-serving as the Chareidim they tried so hard to villify. It's one thing to achieve power but quite another to wield it effectively. Unless he gets a majority in the Knesset he will have to deal with other parties and, given his desire the raise the percentage threshhold for getting a seat, who will speak with him? Not the small parties whose existence would be threatened by such a change, nor the larger ones who would face the possibility of long stays in opposition should a majority government ever come into existence.
There is also the matter of the Chareidi community's response. Will they really roll over and start sending their youth to the draft offices? If forcibly drafted, will they really cooperate with the army? If rhetoric and verbal vitriol was the worst of what they were capable of this would be a small matter but as too many elements in that community have shown over the last while, violence and civil disobedience on a large scale is something many of them are not averse to, even as the Shafrans and Menkens of the world shriek about how everyone is guilty... but them.
Lapid's goals are admirable and an Israel remade in that image would be even more economically successful than it is now. But it is one thing to shout hopeful slogans, quite another to achieve them.