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Letter to Yair Lapid

Yair Lapid, we're exhilarated by your victory, but at the same time, we fully expect to be disappointed, again

Dear Yair,

First of all, congratulations. I’m one of the people who voted for you, and I’m thrilled by your success.

A week or so ago you wrote an article directed toward English-speaking olim, or in our parlance, “Anglos.” Anglos, you argued, “are classically dreamers and optimists who feel empowered to be part of the solution.” Yair, you are correct. I do feel empowered. So empowered, in fact, that today, as you officially enter into coalition talks, I am going to take the liberty of sharing some treasured oleh wisdom with you. Here goes:

Don’t let your rights lead you around by the nose.

I received this piece of advice 11 years ago from my friend Galia. I had been here about six months and was deliberating whether or not I should buy a car or a refrigerator or a house and so on. I did not have the money for any of this and I had only recently found employment, but I had rights. And if I didn’t use them, I would lose them. Horrors! At this point, Galia shared the advice she had received when she was a new olah. Don’t let your rights lead you around by the nose, she told me. Just because you have the right doesn’t mean you have to use it. Only do so if it is right for you.

Yair, at this moment you have some simply killer rights. According to the pundits, you will be setting the rules of engagement in this round of coalition building. You can be the finance minister, foreign minister — you name it. What an amazing, heady feeling that must be. Nonetheless, Yair, please keep your head. If you can better fulfill the Yesh Atid platform from the Interior Ministry than from the Foreign Ministry, do what is right for the country and take a pass on the prestige of international exposure.

Please don't blow it.. Yair Lapid (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
Please don’t blow it.. Yair Lapid (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Here is another story. In the 2006 elections, I did a brief stint volunteering for another centrist party that promised change. A month or so before the party crashed and burned, I spent a sunny Friday on an intersection in Tel Aviv, trying to interest people in it. It was to no avail. No one wanted to hear what I had to say. Ain mah la’asot, they told me. Nothing ever changes. And each one continued on his or her way, to their homes and eventually to the polls (if they even bothered) to vote for the same old corrupt parties, because zeh mah yesh — that’s the way it is.

You probably know thisת but nothing has changed. Israelis still feel that way in general, and they feel that way about you in particular. Sure, quite a few of us voted for you, but on a certain level even your voters expect you to fail. We believe in your message. We are exhilarated by your victory and the prospect of change, at last. But at the same time, we fully expect to be disappointed, again. We expect you to sell us out. When you hold your first press conference in which you try to spin a policy flip-flop or tell us that black is really white, we will be sad, but not shocked. Because, mah la’asot? The Knesset is a like a massive digestive system. People go in wholesome and come out as shit.

But I’m telling you this, Yair, because you were right about Anglos, or at least about this Anglo. I am a dreamer and I am an optimist. I believe that you can change our minds.

Imagine that instead of disappointing us, you don’t. Imagine that instead of using your rights to satisfy your egos or some other personal need, you and the rest of the Yesh Atid list take the high road and use them exclusively to satisfy the needs of this country. Imagine that you keep your campaign promises and where you cannot, instead of spinning, you are honest about it. Imagine how people might look at government after four years in which the second-largest party in the Knesset conducts itself with integrity and honor and performs its work in a responsible, diligent and professional manner. Israel might well be transformed by the next election day. Imagine the energy and optimism there would be. After all, it would be clear to everyone that, yes, of course change is possible.

And now imagine how people will react if you don’t do this. If, after all the excitement and all the hype and all the fine words, you act just like all the other politicians, and swap your ideals for backroom deals.

Yair, there is so much riding on you. Please, please, don’t blow it.