Israel’s C-Span is the Knesset Channel (33) which political junkies like myself are hooked on. It’s better than Hollywood boxing matches because it’s just as bloody but with real athletes. A case in point was Monday’s fantastic bout between fresh Finance Minister Yair Lapid and three Haredi MKs which the former won, in this sportscaster’s opinion, if not by a knockout then surely by points.
Lapid, who actually does some amateur boxing in his spare time, was at the Knesset podium to discuss the coming cuts his office will introduce, in order to stop the deficit hemorrhaging of state funds (holding at about $13 billion at last count). It was Lapid’s first speech in his new capacity, which the chairman, MK Meir Sheetrit used when asking the Haredi MKs to cut him some slack this being his “virgin speech.” Lapid mumbled that it was the first time in many years his name and the concept of virginity were used in the same sentence.
It was that kind of a parliamentary confrontation, stormy, angry, and deliciously witty.
As soon as Minister of Finance Lapid rose to get to the podium, he was already attacked by members of the United Torah Judaism, accusing him of a slew of sins, all of which stemmed, supposedly, from his bigoted attitude towards Haredim.
“I empathize with Mr. Porush sorrow over the fact that you are no longer members of the coalition government,” Lapid shot back, clearly enjoying himself. “these must be very difficult times for you.”
That was funny! But Lapid had just begun. Next he turned on the same Haredi MKs, after they accused him of running a deficit budget. “Did you juts come down to Earth from mars?” he asked. “Were you not partners over the last thirty years in the governments that created this deficit? This deficit is written on your name, my job is to solve the deficit you created. And, mind you, you were not exactly the cheapest coalition members…”
When he presented his proposed vote of no-confidence (there was a whole bunch of those Monday), MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) made the tactical mistake of mentioning that Israel is a country surrounded by enemies.
Lapid replied: “You had the courage to come and say that the most important issue is security. You are worried about the decline in the rates of IDF recruitment? Do not concern yourself, this government will make sure that there will be many new recruits from your very own backyard. Do not concern yourself about the strength of the IDF. Every draft dodging is unacceptable, everyone will be drafted.”
Swoosh! Score! Three pointer!
Haredi Mk Gafni asked Lapid: “Why do you issue Facebook Messages on Shabbat?” to which Lapid responded angrily: “I’m entitled to send messages on Shabbat, I’m not a religious man, you are free to do what you want on Shabbat, and I’ll do what I want on Shabbat.”
On Tuesday morning, MK Gafni told the Army radio it was a mistake to confront Lapid as he and his two colleagues had done. Lapid ate them for lunch and the entire country cheered him on. A Haredi journalist told The Jewish Press he was begging the Torah Judaism MKs not to play into Lapid’s hands, and instead get him where it hurts, make fun of him and his dubious liberal arts education. The Haredim will have to think outside the box on this one, or the next four years will be an endless sitcom with themselves in the role of the village idiots.
The pièce de résistance of Lapid’s manhandling of the three Haredi amigos was the issue of cutting back child support. Of all the coming cuts, this one is expected to be the cruelest. So you’d have thought that the Haredi MKs would score big on this obvious slow ball over center plate? Not on Monday.
“The people who are expected to take care of children in the first place are their parents,” he said sternly, and then poured forth a hundred years of prejudiced, Haredi loathing criticism about making all these babies without a care in the world, because the nanny state will take care of them. It was hard to watch, and if the Torah Judaism MKs are not careful, their own Haredi voters would go for Lapid next time. Already Time Magazine has included the new handsome in its list of 100 most influential people – while dropping Netanyahu altogether!