Lapid’s Popularity Plunging Rapidly

Israeli Finance Minister and leader of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90 )
Israeli Finance Minister and leader of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The state budget deficit may be shrinking, but Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s popularity, and the poll numbers of his party Yesh Atid, are shrinking much faster.

In a poll conducted for Haaretz by the Dialog Institute released on Friday, Lapid was rated the most disappointing politician, as some 75 percent of respondents said they were disappointed in his performance in office.

Only 5 percent said they thought he was qualified to be prime minister, a stunning rebuff to his boasts less than a year ago after his election triumph of setting his sights on succeeding Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

If elections were held today, the poll predicted that Yesh Atid would win 10 seats, versus the 19 it got last January, dropping it from second largest party in the country to tied for fifth with Shas.

Haaretz referred to Lapid contemptuously as likely “the next thing to find its place on the trash heap of Israeli politics,” after he told interviewers in Washington last week that he’s “the next thing” in Israel.

Many voters feel betrayed by Lapid, a self-proclaimed champion of the middle and working classes who has raised taxes and cut services.

The politician who could do no wrong now it seems can do no right.

Last week in the Knesset, Lapid delivered a speech linking delay in setting the nation’s natural gas export policy to business stagnation in Israel. Specifically, he blamed threatened closure of factories in Israel on the opposition’s recent petition to the High Court regarding gas exports.

The accusation provoked a barrage of scorn from opposition MKs. Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich rose to respond, saying, “The finance minister has broken new records and accused the opposition of closing down factories. Even ignorance has its limits. There is no connection between the High Court proceedings on natural gas exports and the Caniel facilities or the natural gas flow into it, or any other factory — these are two different, unrelated things,” she said.

“You can keep using this gas pipeline story, it has nothing to do with the High Court. Someone should explain it to you. I feel bad. You come up to the podium, you have no idea what you are talking about, you haven’t the slightest clue.”

While in the U.S., he denied that he had ever wanted to be Foreign Minister, describing it as “a myth.” He claimed instead that he had entered politics after a career in the media in order to defend the middle classes, which would only be possible as Finance Minister.

Israeli columnist Yossi Werter pointed out what most Israelis know, but not most Americans — that after the elections Lapid refused to even discuss Finance, and held out as long as he could for the Foreign Ministry.

“I don’t understand anything about economics,” he admitted at the time. But within the last 48 hours before establishing the coalition, he realized that Netanyahu was not going to renege on his promise to Avigdor Lieberman to hold the Foreign Ministry portfolio open for him pending the outcome of his legal case, and Lapid finally consented to being Finance Minister.

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