Yair Lapid, the former journalist who now heads the Yesh Atid party, gave his first public interview on Tuesday, after choosing for months to avoid being interviewed and to mostly make comments on his Facebook page and in public conventions.
The interview was given to Channel 2 News, where Lapid was anchorman of the Friday evening news magazine before resigning in January to join politics.
Lapid criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and said that he is not interested in achieving peace. In the past, Lapid publicly called to bring down Netanyahu’s government.
“Binyamin Netanyahu today has a coalition which leads him to places that make the State of Israel look leprous around the world,” he said. “The fact that he is a good English speaker does not save the day. Binyamin Netanyahu has decided that he does not care to do anything to achieve peace in Israel.”
Lapid added that Netanyahu “took the most complicated, bloodiest problem of the State of Israel - the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and said: 'We’ll pass it to our children and let them break their heads over it.’ That is irresponsible.”
Despite his criticism of Netanyahu, however, Lapid did not rule out the possibility that he would sit in a government led by Netanyahu, adding that he does not want to be prime minister any time soon.
“Any role that will allow me to change the State of Israel, that's the role I will take,” he said. “Israel needs a change. It’s gotten stuck. It has abandoned its citizens.”
Lapid also did not rule out joining forces with former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni and would not elaborate as to who he would work with.
He was careful to reject the criticism against him that he does not represent the middle class, choosing to mention the fact that he has an autistic daughter.
“I do not like to use this fact, but you cannot tell a person who raises a child with autism that he does not understand life and does not understand how real people live in Israel,” said Lapid. “No one else speaks for the middle class in Israel. Israeli politics is in a strange position in which most of the people in Israel are not represented, and no one represented them until I came along.”
Finally, Lapid spoke about opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich, who heads the Labor party and is considered his most serious challenger, choosing to highlight the differences between them in terms of the way they view the economy.
“Shelly, who is a worthy and successful politician, is a socialist and this is a legitimate approach, but I think this concept may lead us to a state of economic collapse as was the case in Greece,” Lapid said.
In recent comments in a public forum Lapid said, “I'm not a socialist, I'm in the middle. I think we should live in a society that takes the good things from capitalism, because capitalism encourages creativity and competition.”
Recent polls have indicated that Lapid could win as many as 17 seats in the next elections. Many of the seats lost by Kadima, which some polls have predicted would crash to as little as three seats, will likely go to Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.
Lapid's father, the late Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, was also a journalist who became a politician at an advanced age. He headed the short-lived Shinui party, which ran on a virulently anti-hareidi platform and received 15 Knesset seats when it was at its apex, and took part in Ariel Sharon's government (but left it in 2004).