The rhetoric on the presidential campaign trail these days is of “bipartisanship.” And it got me thinking. About Israeli politics.
Now, politics in Israel is rough and tumble. At a committee meeting earlier this year, an Arab legislator screamed “shut up” at an ultra-nationalist colleague during a heated debate. She got so steamed by his yelling that she dumped her water glass on his head.
The fight was over school students attending a human rights rally.
Not to excuse the behavior, but that kind of thing is parliamentary theatrics. In general, Israeli voters aren’t filled with the same kind of us vs. them, red vs. blue rage that divides us here in the US. There are so many political parties, you can’t really hate them all.
But that’s not to say there aren’t divisions, some of them pretty deep and heated. They’re mostly left vs. right or secular vs. religious.
There’s a politician in Israel who’s also talking about bridging the gap. Yair Lapid is smart, good-looking, and pledges to map a course straight through the Israeli center.
He also has great hair.
The World’s Matthew Bell profiled the former Israeli TV star and son of storied politician Tommy Lapid this summer, just as Lapid was announcing his candidacy.
His new political party is called “Yesh Atid,” or “There is A Future.” Lapid was expected to try to grab votes from the center left and center right, Labor and Kadima. Yet now, the centrist is making a grab for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “right wing” voters.
Lapid gave a speech this week in Ariel, one of the three settlement blocs that Israel expects to keep in any peace deal with the Palestinians. He accused Netanyahu of failing to revive peace negotiations that broke down in 2010 in a dispute over settlement construction.
And he invoked an oft-repeated line from the right that a unified Jerusalem was non-negotiable.
Lapid also challenged Netanyahu’s hawkish stance on Iran, saying Israel should rely on international pressure to curb what Israel and the West believe is Iran’s drive toward nuclear weapons. The Netanyahu government has threatened to bomb Iran if it doesn’t abandon its nuclear program.
Now, Yesh Atid isn’t expected to get all that many seats; maybe 15 out of the 120 in parliament. But Lapid is saying that he won’t join a government that doesn’t pledge to return to peace talks — and that’s something new in this political season.
Most Israeli polls predict right-wing and religious parties closely allied with Netanyahu will win a solid majority in next January’s election. But if the opposition parties want to effect any change, Lapid’s pledge may force them to actually, finally, take another look at peace… in a sort of multi-partisan way.