Revenge of the schnauzers

cc: wikipedia
Revenge of the schnauzers

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid sent a letter to party activists over the weekend. In the letter, Lapid criticized embittered voters who have become dissatisfied with his party’s conduct, especially his own leadership since taking office. “All of us — the people of Yesh Atid — are forced on a daily basis to deal with people who stare us down like nervous schnauzers left out in the rain, proclaiming their ‘disappointment,'” the finance minister wrote. But it appears that Lapid refuses to acknowledge the real circumstances that threw these schnauzers out into the rain, protesting outside his home.

Lapid began is activism on Facebook, and his euphoria reached a peak when he became addicted to the platform. It’s hard to forget the Riki-Cohen-from-Hadera debacle and how it betrayed his ignorance of the numbers (perhaps that’s why Lapid prefers to accept all of the Finance Ministry staff’s recommendations), and how he preferred such ignorance to actually trying to understand every piece of data.

On the one hand, we expected Lapid to act differently once he became finance minister (there are other ways to connect with people beside Facebook). On the other hand, Lapid uses Facebook to shield himself from people with differing opinions (such as activists for the legalization of marijuana). The administrators of his Facebook page even delete comments, and Lapid himself can’t respond to all the exclamations posted to his wall. But why should he care? We’re just schnauzers left in the rain, staring.

The look on Yair Lapid face

cc: wikipedia
MK Adi Kol defied the party line on the governability issue | cc: wikipedia

Yair Lapid vowed to cut spending to haredi schools and yeshivot, but we have not witnessed great success on that issue. His alliance with Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett was just for show. In reality, there’s no way to draft haredim in a serious way, as he promised. According to haredi affairs specialist at Hiddush, Shahar Ilan, most of the 500 new recruits are “children of the newly religious, delinquents, new immigrants, members of Chabad, Breslov hasidim, and Shas supporters. In other words, the margins of haredi society.”

The public experienced Lapid’s aggressive side on Facebook, and it hasn’t yet faded from sight. Lapid’s small dictator-self has been exposed. Witness his reaction when MK Adi Kol defied the party line on the governability issue (raising the number of Knesset members needed for a party to enter the Knesset). The difference between Lapid’s behavior in the Knesset committee and the newsletter he sent us is huge. This difference says everything. The finance minister — the same politician who was once a writer and media personality totally lacking in self-awareness — is trying to mediate the damage caused by his capricious conducts damage by acting like nothing at all has happened. As if he did not become angry and livid and furrowed his wrinkled brow and showed us the aggressivity hiding beneath his “pleasant” exterior.

One could imagine a younger Lapid puffing a cigar while swirling a glass of whisky. But not everyone can purchase fancy tobacco and alcohol and live in Ramat Aviv Gimmel, and it’s these luxuries that are rendered even less accessible by Lapid’s decision to raise taxes on cigarettes and arak. Lapid forgets the little details, which are huge to common folk like us. Lapid can’t fathom the disappointment, the sweeping feeling of despair over the rising price of life’s small pleasures. Lapid, of all people, with his bon vivant image, forgot how important a cigarette and a shotglass of arak are to the public wellbeing, especially during such hard times when the cost of living is rising.

So Lapid has been crashing in opinion polls, and again, instead of dealing with the disappointment, he simply vows that future polls will yield different results. But this time the barking schnauzers may actually bite. Even his hand

 The article was first published on Israel Hayom


Facebook: Winners and losers



Internet-based social networks played a significant role in shaping the identities of the winners and losers in these elections. Yair Lapid leaned heavily on his Facebook page, proving the social media website to be very effective in helping him and his Yesh Atid party succeed big time. On the other hand, Eretz Chadasha (“New Country”) used innovative tools on its site, but did not gain entry to the Knesset.

Eretz Chadasha, headed by Rani Blair and Eldad Yaniv, pioneered the method of broadcasting campaign ads on YouTube, way before the campaign ad cycle even officially started. The volume of activity on the Internet was large, but it failed to realize its subversive potential. The network devoted itself to buzz, and all the party “chatter” developed a support base. Supporters asked Yaniv to drop out of the race shortly before the election if it became clear the party would not be able to garner enough votes to pass the threshold. Yaniv did not heed their call.

Eretz Chadasha crafted a new form of campaigning. The party stood up to the wealthy class, uncovered its secrets, and yet failed to act transparently from within its own movement. It depended on a massive advertising campaign on the popular Mako website and belated support, which arrived all too late from the media. Eretz Chadasha claimed that the buzz on social media would help grab some seats.

Still, many have criticized the idea that political discussion on online social networks can translate into more seats. Up to the very last minute, Eretz Chadasha proceeded with its head stuck in the social media universe and did not even take a look at the reality outside. Despite the buzz, subversion and YouTube views, it failed to succeed in the most basic aspect of elections — bringing voters to the polls. This requires more work. Parties need real power bases, with activists on the ground, venturing out to the peripheral areas of the country to campaign. Parties have to work in the field and not just pound their keyboards. The big question is whether Eretz Chadasha is ready to work in the field for the next four years, or whether the party’s efforts were just a flicker in Israeli politics.

Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party were the big surprise in this election, transforming the election into a fascinating event. Many critics mocked Lapid’s Facebook efforts. Lapid used Facebook as a platform for free and open dialogue, though not always addressing the most difficult questions. Quite a few voters understood that they could find Lapid on Facebook; they sat on his tail and definitely tried to rattle him. Lapid, like many other leaders, realized the power of the network, so that is where he based his campaign. He managed to earn for himself an image of some Left, a lot of Center and even a drop of Right in his politics, always using the power of focusing on the middle class.

Tens of thousands supported Lapid on Facebook, viewing him as a candidate to rival even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the amount of private support he received. But commentators did not take Lapid’s Internet success seriously; it seemed virtual and impossible. Some gambled on other political stars. Lapid, however, realized that he could make use of the symbolic capital he has earned over the years in countless media appearances on his own and as the son of Tommy Lapid, the leader of the once-upon-a-time Shinui party, a secular Zionist party that was founded in 1974 and split into factions in 2006.

Eretz Chadasha tried to use only new media to be elected, and fell short. Lapid, a former broadcaster on Channel 2 and a Yedioth Ahronoth columnist, brought his stardom from the old media to Facebook and won big.

The op-ed was first published on “Israel Hayom