Gaza attack was ‘incredible boost’ and ‘good debut’ for Yair Lapid

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid (APA Images)

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  August 23, 2022

Israeli PM Yair Lapid’s unprovoked attack on Gaza that killed 17 children was part of a “good debut” for him with Israeli voters, says Tal Shalev of Walla News.

Israel’s unprovoked attack on Gaza this month that killed 49 Palestinians including 17 children was “very successful” and provided an “incredible boost” to newbie Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s standing among Israelis, says Tal Shalev of Walla News.

Shalev told the Israel Policy Forum it was a “good debut” for Lapid:

“All in all together, objectively Lapid had a good first month and a good debut in office. First of all it started out with President Biden’s visit [in July], which he hosted and was very successful and gave him this positive wind to start this job. But more importantly, the fact that he successfully handled this very successful operation in Gaza earlier this month was an incredible boost for Lapid’s image…. He’s just proven himself on the job… So far almost everything has been without mistakes.”

Shalev said Lapid’s success is reflected in “opinion polls about who’s suitable to be prime minister.”

Shalev’s view of Israelis’ respect for violence echoes Amos Harel of Haaretz, who told the Israel Policy Forum a week earlier that the “surprise attack” had answered the rightwing critics of Lapid’s weak military background. “You cannot blame Lapid anymore for being soft on the Arab side,” Harel said.

Lapid’s starkly political motivation for an onslaught that caused so much suffering is not something the American press talks about.

Tal Shalev had other interesting observations during a one-hour podcast five days ago.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party are stronger than ever, even though he is on trial for corruption charges. Netanyahu’s rightwing bloc is still likely to fall short of a 61 seat majority– as he has in the last four elections– but the media are promoting the idea that Netanyahu will gain the support of Benny Gantz’s new center-right party to get over the top.

The media also promote Netanyahu’s racist narrative: Lapid can only form the next government with the help of Palestinian parties. They promote this view because Israeli media are rightwing and hate Lapid. Though in the same racist spirit, Lapid disavows the backing of Palestinian parties.

Here’s how Shalev phrased her points.

“There is a genuine Lapid hatred in Israeli media. The media, the political commentary tilts to the right in many aspects, and Lapid is currently the most leftwing candidate on the map… Much of the Israeli media is pro Netanyahu…. Netanyahu’s influence on the media is extremely, extremely strong.”

Most of the questions to Lapid, are, Who are you going to sit with? I.e., How can you form a government without the Joint List of Palestinian parties?

And Lapid– that most leftwing candidate on the map! — has risen to the bait, calling the Joint List “extremists” that he won’t make a government with.

Shalev sounded the same narratives, describing the Palestinian Joint List as radicals. The leaders of the List, including Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh, have “radicalized their rhetoric against any cooperation with any Jewish or Zionist government,” and as a result have “become much less partner material for even leftwing [Jewish Israeli] leaders.”

So the racism that is inherent in Israelis politics is trotted out to Israel lobby listeners as good sense– This is how you deal with radicals. When in fact, Palestinians don’t like Zionism for the same reason black people didn’t like the Jim Crow South — it discriminates against them, and persecutes them. But when Palestinians stand up for their rights, they’re “radical” and “extremist.”

Shalev said Lapid is politically vulnerable because Netanyahu’s rightwing bloc (of Likud and the Orthodox parties) has only gotten stronger and it might even reach a 61 seat majority.

In the past four elections Netanyahu’s bloc has only grown stronger and stronger. His support in Likud is only growing stronger and stronger.

And several of the parties in Lapid’s governing coalition are flirting with oblivion, the election threshold of four seats– Labor, Meretz, Yisrael Beiteinu and Ra’am. If they fall below 3.25 percent in returns, they don’t get any seats.

Labor and Meretz are facing pressure to combine so that leftleaning Israelis — an endangered species — will be represented in the Knesset. Labor is now polling at 5 or 6 seats, but both Lapid and Defense Minister Gantz are poaching Labor voters.

The race is becoming a two-man battle between Lapid and Netanyahu. “The voters want Yes or No Bibi… If someone doesn’t want Netanyahu, they will go to Lapid. And if someone wants Netanyahu they vote Netanyahu.”

But Gantz– with partners Gideon Saar and Gadi Eisenkot in a new party — is trying to offer himself as the alternative, who could go either way in the end. The media are sounding a pro-Netanyahu narrative that Gantz might end up forming a coalition government with Netanyahu this time around to avoid a sixth election. And in this way Gantz would finally become prime minister…

The election is November 1.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006