When the subject of Yair Lapid comes up amongst Torah-observant jews someone inevtiably mentions his father, Tommy, and how Lapid the elder was a virulent anti-religious fanatic. Much of this is true. Lapid was very anti-Chareidi and by extension did not show much love for non-Chareidi Orthodox Jews. His Shinui party won 15 seats in its most successful election which earned him a senior seat in the cabinet rom where he tried to implement his anti-religious agenda. Frum folks often speaker of Lapid the younger as the second coming of Tommy with the same dedication to destroying the "Torah world" as his father.
What people often don't recall is what happened to Tommy and Shinui. There is a good reason the party was a one-election wonder. Shortly after getting his cabinet position Lapid discovered that personal popularity and decent election showing did not translate into anything close to political omnipotence. He also discovered that the people he elected were no immune to the disease that afflicts all politicians sooner or later: corruption. Shinui wound up becoming like every other minor party that made it big. It failed to implement much of its platform and its members wound up on the front page of the newspapers guilty of the same crimes they had so condemned during the election campaign. And then Shinui disappeared.
If one is going to compare the two Lapids one needs to keep this whole picture in mind. Like his father, Yair campaigned on a populist platform, shouting about the needs of the middle class and the need to reduce the hegemony of the Chareidi parties in matters of religious and national affairs. Campaigned as a righteous defender of the poor is easy. Remaining one once you're elected is a real trick.
To his credit Lapid has handled himself in a superb fashion until recently. The master manipulator, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, gave his the Finance Ministry portfolio, a graveyard for ambitious politicians. Yet he has remained on message when it comes to economic reforms and he has refused to be publicly enraged by the ongoing abuse he receives from the Chareidi leadership and its political representativies. All it would take is one statement like "You stupid religious bastards..." and the "Ah ha!" shouting would being. So far he has held his temper and has made the Chareidi leadership look all the more infantile for it.
But now there is a first chink in the armour. It's one thing to go on and on about needing to strengthen the middle class. It's one thing to itnroduce a budget. It's another to implement one's plans and for that one needs senior people on message. Lapid is under further pressure because Israel is, to our sorrow, one of the most corupt countries in the world when it comes to financial issues and the concentration and control of wealth by the few over the many. The governor of the Bank of Israel is an especially important person for Lapid yet so far he has picked two contestants for the position and both have had to withdraw their candidacy for personal reasons. This has created the impression that finding a decent person to run the Bank is more difficult than it should be and that Lapid's ability to find such a person is defective.
Now by itself this is not such a crisis for Lapid. I have no doubt he will shortly find a qualified candidate. But it is instructive in that it is a first failure for him. He is not omnipotent, he is not automatically the next prime minister as he himself has crowed and he has stumbled. Perhaps him opponents, instead of trying to turn him into a martyr the public can rally around, should just step back and see if this initial stumble turns into a full fledged fall.