Monday, May 6, 2013

Yair Lapid's Fascinating 20 minutes in the Knesset, Part 2 by RaP

Guest Post by RaP The media and PR repercussions from the by-now watershed appearance by Yair Lapid in the Knesset youtube are still being discussed and analyzed. The Charedi press is portraying it as a manifestation of doom and gloom and part of the new "decrees" that Charedim are being subjected to, even though not just Charedim but many other sectors will see cuts in funding. Lapid faced a torrent of attacks from the Ashkenazi Charedi Degel HaTorah faction Knesset party members, particularly Rabbis Gafni, Porush, Litzman and Eichler who are all very skilled debaters of the OLD  SCHOOL in their own right but somehow came across as the "losers" in the face-off with Lapid because they were not ready for the ambush he laid for them: A suave TV and media personality acting in the role of "ringmaster" who deliberately unleashes an act that he knows will unfold with screaming and shouting. Lapid junior does not ooze the evident anger and hostility of the old-timer Lapid senior who came across as a vengeful old man. Lapid the younger is your typical Israeli yuppie who are tired of the Charedim making demands of the Israeli nanny state. Western countries are all broke now, and Israel is headed in the same direction willy-nilly if it does not save itself now.

What the Degel HaTorah party members, and the other Charedim who are there, do not realize is that the role of the Knesset has changed. Just like the American political conventions, it is now all about theater and not substance, and the better showman aware of the best angles and prepared with the sharpest soundbites wins. Real deals are made off-camera behind closed doors, board-room style, but PUBLIC OPINION is always up for grabs. That is how Ronald Reagan buried Jimmy Carter, even though Carter had the reputedly genius IQ while the less sharp Reagan knew how to position himself in front of the camera and came equipped with his amusing catchy quotes and was the obvious master of how and when to deliver them with the most devastating effect AS THE TV CAMERAS WERE ROLLING.

Charedim MUST wake up to the new reality of what they are up against. PR people and kiruv type "salesmen" are now needed. Let's see Rabbis like Berel Wein (a former lawyer) or Uri Zohar (a former TV star) who WITH  WIT  AND  HUMOR know how to confront and deal with hostile questions that are meant to attack Yiddishkeit.

The recent news that the Sefardi Shas party will now be headed by Aryeh Deri, re-appointed by the Sefardi gedolim, is an indication that on some level there are expectations that "the good old days" can somehow be restored and the gravy train will somehow start rolling again. That is a strategic mistake. It's a new situation now that calls for new responses and so far the Charedi parties are falling back on old credos and personas to "get things done" but as the confrontation with Lapid shows, nothing will get done beyond tantrums and throwbacks to names from the past, to somehow bring back the "good old days"! But those days are gone now. They will not be back for a very long time. As they say, "that was then, this is now"!

Charedim will have to learn to STOP asking secular people, many of them are in fact NON-Jews Halachicaly, for financial bailouts. Charedim have enough numbers in Israel and enough leadership to begin to map out a strategy of INDEPENDENCE from the Chilonim. Just as the old Yishuv prior to 1948 while still under British Mandate rule, under occupation of a vast force of British soldiers and police, had to start to figure out how they would live independently without the British -- and secular Israeli Jews will have to learn, just as the British had to learn that they could never force the Jews to bend to their will by threats of military force or government decrees or even imprisonment of the Jewish leaders.

That is why Charedim need to come up with plans to establish PR teams who understand what PUBLIC OPINION is and how to use the media and the CAMERA and not just rely on old-fashioned beis medrash style "debates between chavrusas" that are great for the milchamta shel Torah but comes across as a "barbaric" tactic when up against the super-cool Lapid, who is not even that heated up against religion, as he tells it, while the Charedim seem like they are the ones that hate everyone when they scream away in front of cameras that then broadcast it all over the net and the world.

See how Yair Lapid responds to his treatment in this article that he has published himself, it is VERY hard to refute what he has to say here:
http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/thats-just-how-it-is-in-the-knesset/2013/05/01/0/

The Jewish Press: " 'That's Just How It Is In the Knesset'
Rabbi Gafni is a complex person. Most of the time in the plenum he acts haughty, but the moment he is away from the cameras he becomes a sweet, reasonable person.
By: Yair Lapid
(
Last week, a few minutes after my stormy exchange with haredi members of Knesset, I went to what we in the Knesset call the “back cafeteria.” It is not exactly a cafeteria but rather a lounge area behind the plenum where members of Knesset alone can enter.
There are couches and chairs, a smoking room, an espresso machine, and a large plasma TV that broadcasts the Knesset channel. This is the place where Knesset members can rest a little, gossip, close deals, and even develop friendships far from the public eye.

I took a coffee and sat with two fellow Yesh Atid MKs, Rena Frenkel and Yifat Kariv, who were still short of breath from the emotions that had just been unleashed in the plenum. After a minute, UTJ MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, whom I had engaged in most of the debate, appeared next to us.

Gafni is a complex person. Most of the time in the plenum he acts haughty, attacking and shouting – a “hero of interruptions” who is equipped, as I mentioned from the podium, with a very strong pair of lungs that enable him to deafen you without a microphone.

But the moment he is away from the cameras he becomes a sweet, reasonable person whom you can come to agreements with regarding laws and committee work. In my eyes, and apparently in his as well, this is not duplicitous. When one is in the plenum, one is a representative of the public. When one is in the back cafeteria, one can be a human being.

“You are making a mistake, Rabbi Gafni,” I told him.

“Regarding what?” he asked.

“Regarding the debate.”

“Why?”

“Listen,” I said. “Tomorrow I am ascending the stage at the National Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv to give my first comprehensive speech as finance minister. I am going to present the principles of the economic policies I plan to present to the government, to provide details regarding my vision for Israeli society, and to explain for the first time the reforms the finance ministry is planning to pass in the Economic Arrangement Law. ”

“So what was the mistake?” Gafni asked.

“The mistake,” I answered, “is that from every perspective it would be better for me to present this speech in the Knesset. In my view, it is more democratic and more fitting that members of Knesset be the first to hear from the finance minister regarding his financial program rather than reading about it the next day in the newspaper.”
“You are very right,” said Gafni, “so why don’t you do that?”

“Because your faction won’t let me even complete the first sentence,” I said. “We both know precisely what will happen. I will start to speak, you will begin to scream, and I won’t succeed in explaining anything. An economic plan is complex and it deserves to have a real discourse and thoughtful dialogue based on facts and realities. I need twenty-five minutes to explain the budget and I don’t think it is too much to ask MKs to listen with seriousness and without interruptions for twenty-five minutes to something that will set the course for the country’s economy.

“If you would agree to give me this opportunity, I am prepared to sit afterward for six straight hours, to listen to your side regarding every detail in the budget, to take notes, and to look into every issue with seriousness and in good faith.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” said Gafni.

“Why not?”

“Because that’s just how it is in the Knesset.”

“What kind of answer is that? If that is so, then we need to change it.”
“It won’t work.”

“But don’t you agree with me,” I insisted, “that this is how it should work? That this will bring honor to the Knesset and to ourselves?”

“It could be,” Gafni said with hesitation.

“So I want to challenge you,” I said. “Go to the members of the opposition and get them organized. Tell them the time has come to change the rules of the game and create a new discourse. We will establish a couple of hours without interruptions from the floor and I will listen to you and you will listen to me. Perhaps a dialogue will emerge that will make us better. Want to try?”

“I’ll get back to you,” Gafni said with a smile.

Of course he never got back to me, and it appears he won’t. What a shame. It could be different, and “that’s just how it is in the Knesset” is a weak excuse for us not to be able to restore the lost honor of our scarred parliament."

12 comments :

  1. It is a big mistake to bring Deri back to lead Shas, he is a a convicted criminal, and it is a Chillul Hashem for a frum party to be led by a crook. What image does this give out to both the religious and secular parties?

    On the other hand, Lapid will probably not carry out many of his threats, plus he plans to be PMin 2 years, which means he will get bogged down in pragmatism - ie he will be forced to bring in Haredi parties to his Government.

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  2. Lapid is a smart guy. He hates the chareidim no less than his dad did, but knows how to come across sweet and reasonable. That way the chareidim look like the bad guys when they call him a sheigetz. Gafni has pointed this out.

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  3. To play to the public, politicians need some basic understanding of and sympathy with that public. Always protesting about one's total righteousness and the other guys' total perfidy comes off poorly even if it's 100% true and certainly if it's less true.

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  4. The haredi political problem is not PR. Haredim have lost political power. Shas and other Haredim overplayed their hand to the point where Yesh Atid could garner 18 seats and displace Labor which was always willing to cut a deal with one or another Haredi party. No amount of improved PR will change this equation. The only question is how long the current government will last. If the current coalition lasts for the full term (and Netanyahu cannot figure out a way to compromise on his committments to Lapid and Bennet) I anticipate a permanent change in policy vis a vis Haredim on a range of issues.

    Not being obnoxious and rude is always a good idea, but I do not see that as the central issue.

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    1. Recipients and PublicityMay 7, 2013 at 1:27 AM

      "Yerachmiel Lopin said...The haredi political problem is not PR."

      RaP: It's NOT just about "PR". See the response below to poster David Held!

      "Haredim have lost political power."

      RaP: In the last election, and now they must figure out a strategy for the future. The question is what Charedim should do and must do to regain their OFFICIAL positions of influence in Israel. They already have immense unofficial positions of power in many ways, such as in housing and neighborhoods, shopping and wholesale and retail power as consumers, as growing voter blocks, as quietly bringing in investments and charity dollars into Israel they are unrivaled to build the ongoing boom in religious life as their brethren from overseas pour in tens of billions into the Israeli economy, and they are still connected to many parts of state that does not gain the attention of the secular media that despises them.

      "Shas and other Haredim overplayed their hand to the point where Yesh Atid could garner 18 seats and displace Labor which was always willing to cut a deal with one or another Haredi party."

      RaP: Indeed 30 years in government made the Charedim complacent as it would any political group, so being in the opposition will be good for them. It has already helped in one big way that many have not noticed, by uniting all the Charedim, Ashkenazim, Sefradim, Chasidim, Litvaks are now all on the same team. Thank you Tommy Lapid, you have wonders by finally bringing ACHDUS= (unity) to the Charedi world in Israel !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      "No amount of improved PR will change this equation."

      RaP: As pointed out in the response to poster David Held below, this is not merely about "PR" but that adopting PR tactics should and must be part of a revamped and improved STRATEGIC plan. And unless the Charedi leadership realizes this, with all their wonderful attributes, they will be on the outside for a long time whether Labor or Likud or Yesh Atid win, because secular Israelis are now united against what they see as the looming Charedi takeover of their beloved "medinat Yisrael" and turn it into an "Eretz Yisroel" al pi Halacha.

      "The only question is how long the current government will last."

      RaP: Probably for a long time, given the way they overcame the hurdles to coalition-building.

      "If the current coalition lasts for the full term (and Netanyahu cannot figure out a way to compromise on his committments to Lapid and Bennet) I anticipate a permanent change in policy vis a vis Haredim on a range of issues."

      RaP: Agreed, 100% -- which is why the Charedi leadership needs to come up with a REAL better counter-plan that is more than having tantrums and running around in circles hurling invectives at the e people they don't like that only makes them look like babies and fools.

      "Not being obnoxious and rude is always a good idea, but I do not see that as the central issue."

      RaP: It isn't the "central issue" and obviously if you read the whole post much more is as stake, but a change of tactics by the Charedim in the Knesset might be the best place to send a very public signal that it's anew ball game now and that there is a different and better strategy being adhered to. So far, it just seems no one has any idea what to do. They think that by shouting, as if they are beseeching heaven in the Knesset as if it is "Tisha Be'Av" so that some miracle will happen (more magical thinking at work, while more SECHEL is required instead!!!!), when the only thing that will happen is that they will be kicked out the Knesset for disorderliness eventually at the rate they are going.

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  5. I don't agree that the same DNA that flowed in the veins of Tommy is what Yair Lapid is made of. (Do you recall the warm relationship that Rav Lau and Tommy had???) Lapid wants to live peacefully in his homeland together with the Religious Olem,,the question is::: IS THIS A POSSIBILITY from each end?

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  6. Without getting into the substance of who's right between the Chareidi parties and Yesh Atid, I would like to delve more deeply in your comparison between the current situation and Reagan and Carter. I agree with the comparison but not because Reagan was all PR. He had a very effective PR strategy, to be sure, but it was buoyed by the fact that Carter was incompetent and at that time Reagan's policies were successful. Reducing the current situation to solely a question of PR and not substance may also be misreading the issue.

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    1. Recipients and PublicityMay 7, 2013 at 1:04 AM

      "David Held said... I agree with the comparison but not because Reagan was all PR. He had a very effective PR strategy, to be sure, but it was buoyed by the fact that Carter was incompetent and at that time Reagan's policies were successful. Reducing the current situation to solely a question of PR and not substance may also be misreading the issue."

      If you read EVERYTHING in the post you will clearly see that PR is ONLY the "tip of the iceberg" here and this post does NOT mean to imply that "only" with better PR will Charedim improve their political and societal standing right now. When one talks of better PR in the political sphere it means that there is an over-all STRATEGY and PLAN and GAME PLAN in place. Right now Charedim are misreading the picture on the ground as they run around yelling "nazi, nazi" or "satan, satan"" at anything and everybody they don't like, which is just plain stupid and infantile.

      Charedim need to come up with an effective rational and in-depth battle plan for how they will successfully fight the current war, and how they plan to GOVERN once they win (they will win, but what will they do with their victory???). The days of grasping for pieces of the pie are over because the Israeli secular public views the Charedim, if not all the Orthodox combined, as a looming Jewish majority in Israel (which they almost are!!!) In return, the Charedim must stop acting like "nebech schnorers" or like self-righteous holy men who deserve to be supported or like lower class citizens who can only take benefits from the state without giving anything back in return as they are perceived from the outside.

      In a nutshell, what Charedim need to realize is that they must OVERHAUL everything about themselves and the way that they function. Often when they talk they make it sound like they are defending the honor of a few thousand Torah scholar when in point of fact the reality it that they have become a VAST tzibur of hundreds of thousands of all kinds of people.

      Just think: Prior to 1948 there were only about 600,000 Jews in total in the British Mandate of Palestine -- and today there are OVER 600,000 Charedim in the modern state of Israel. For Jews, the figure of 600,000 is not small. Any place with that amount of Jews has always been a self-sufficient powerful and influential entity. It is more than a "mini state" it is a big state in and of itself. And for the Charedim that means they must view themselves not as a "persecuted minority" but as a "near majority" and function accordingly, and that would include PR.

      If Israeli Charedim can't figure out what PR is then let them ask their American counterparts what it is and they will help out. But right now Charedim in Israeli are still acting as if they are in the Pale of Settlement fighting the Cossacks, when they are already way into the Information Age where technology and modernity have lifted them out of the self-imposed artificial dark and middle ages and into the 21st century.

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  7. I agree that smooth-talkers are in order, but not only because shouting and hysteria is not working.

    Rather, it is because there is not much of substance that one could say that would make the charedi position sound reasonable to anyone outside of the charedi world.

    So, bring in the spin men, to talk around the issues and distract everyone from the substance of the critique.

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  8. People say Lapid hates Chareidim because in their reality anything other than fawning obesience to the "gedolim" and accepting every Chareidi community demand translates into "You hate us!"
    Lapid, as well as most seculars and Dati Leumi do not hate the Chareidim no more than most English Canadians hate the Quebecois. Instead, just like English Canadians, we see a community that has a rich culture and a spoiled-brat attitude to match. We wish the latter would go away so the former could shine but also realize that the leadership of that community can't seem to let it go.

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  9. Lapid may be right in his positions, but Gafni is also right in heckling him in the Knesset. The tradition is: A gets up to speak, B heckles him, A then complains to his media faction that this is an embarassment and something has to change. Then, when the balance of power shifts, it happens all over again, except in reverse.

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  10. Recipients and PublicityMay 7, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    "DF said...Lapid may be right in his positions, but Gafni is also right in heckling him in the Knesset. The tradition is: A gets up to speak, B heckles him, A then complains to his media faction that this is an embarassment and something has to change. Then, when the balance of power shifts, it happens all over again, except in reverse."

    Problem is this is now being watched and scrutinized VISUALLY like never before, like a theater and that is why Lapid wins this debate because he is acting the adult and and saying "let's be grownups" and stop being childish!

    You know, it is very odd, for the Charedim who are always harping on and on about "kiruv" and "saving neshomas" for which they have so many institutions and rabbis and collected hundreds of millions for, yet they can't figure out how to give a simple respectable response to Lapid. Secular Jewish politicians also need kiruv and Lapid has shown he is open to that, not like his father. He has appointed two rabbis to his team. He has female Talmud scholars on his team. He speaks respectfully about Judaism. If you know the Yuppies you will recognize him right away as one of them. While Gafni may know how to be the equivalent of a bar-room brawler in the Knesset and a numbers cruncher when heading a committee, he and his cohorts must realize they are facing an entirely different situation now if they hope to regain even a toehold. Otherwise they are going to be painted as crazy men and be out of power for a very, very long time. They may as well work for yeshivas and rebbes as fundraisers OUTSIDE of government.

    If Lapid extends a hand of friendship it must be explored, not barked at. Is it any different to a secular Israeli who tells a kiruv activist from Lev LeAchim to come and talk??? The age of ba'al teshuvas may be ending but it is far from over. It is not for nothing that there is now talk that Yesh Atid is consulting with representatives of Degel HaTorah about appointing some people to act as "advisers" or "deputies" to Yesh Atid's Rabbi Shai Piron the Yesh Atid Orthodox minister of Education. The Earth is not only shifting below us, but there has been a seismic shift.

    So therefore, yes, if they want to play musical chairs like babies, then sure let everyone continue screaming at each other that accomplishes nothing. But if something can be saved from the situation then a newer and more comprehensive realistic approach must be put in place, including a better PR image -- would a Charedi kiruv worker have a job for even one day with his organization if he acted that way with major donors or potential big-name BTs??????????????????????????????????????????? You have to learn how to smile, smile smile, and be patiuent and kind sometimes. There is a time to be tough and a time to be soft. A time to "love and a time for "war" it's hard to know right now what to do and Charedi confusion is very evident!!

    However, from the fact that Degel HaTorah people are talking Yesh Atid's Shai Piron it would seem that Rav Shteinman's pragmatism and practicality is once again coming into play. But will it be enough and will there be enough good will to create a workable solution so that secular Israelis and Charedim do not go over the cliff of their own Armageddon.

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