Thursday, February 16, 2012 "Yair Lapid: Shas has country 'wrapped around its finger'" "Yair Lapid: Shas has country 'wrapped around its finger'",7340,L-4190956,00.html  

In first public speech since he entered politics, former journalist says 'damaged' system of government has turned politics into 'corrupt game'; claims Israel belongs to 'people who finally began asking where is the money?' Shas: He's 'blinding' public

Ahuva Mamos

Published: 02.16.12, 19:11 / Israel News

Yair Lapid warned Thursday that Israel might "bring on its own demise" and demanded a change in the system of government.


"Look how Shas, with 11 (Knesset) seats, has the entire country wrapped around its finger," the journalist-turned-politician told a business conference in Eilat.


Lapid, who left his job as a Channel 2 anchorman to join politics, said Israel "does not belong to interest groups, lobbyists or tycoons. It does not belong to stone-throwers or people who threaten IDF officers, and this country does not belong to politicians either. This country belongs to us. It belongs to those who pay taxes, those who do IDF reserve duty and whose children enlist in the army – it belongs to the Israeli middle class."


"Israel belongs to the State of Israel's working and productive public, which gives the most and receives the least in return. It belongs to the people who finally began asking 'where is the money?' This is a question I am going to ask again and again. It is not just a financial question, it is a moral one as well," he said.


'Palestinians don't have to fight us'

Lapid, whose late father Yosef (Tommy) Lapid led a political battle against the ultra-Orthodox Shas party as the head of Shinui party, said "look how Shas, with its 11 (Knesset) seats, has the entire country wrapped around its finger. Look howUnited Torah Judaism, which is even smaller than Shas, conquered the Finance Committee. Why? Because they know what they want."


In his speech, Lapid said the "damaged" system of government has turned politics into a "corrupt game in which we are constantly controlled by extortive sectors and factions.


"This is the year in which the red line has been crossed. Fifty percent of all first-graders are either ultra-Orthodox or Arab; this means that if we don't do something, within 12 years 50% won't enlist in the army or join the workforce – and that will be the end of the Zionist state.


"The Palestinians don't have to fight us; they can have a cup of coffee, smoke a cigarette and wait 12 years until the Zionist state collapses on its own," he told the conference.


In the first public speech since he entered politics on January 8, Lapid said changing the system of government should not take more than a year. His plan for changing the governing system included granting the largest party the automatic right to establish a government, raising Israel's 2% electoral threshold to 6% and raising the number of Knesset members needed to overthrow a prime minister in a no-confidence vote.


"This change will cause Israelis to vote for major parties, and, most importantly, the party will not be held hostage by small coalition factions," he said.


Lapid also called to revoke the so-called Tal Law, which exempts ultra-Orthodox from military service, and obligate haredim and Arabs to join civil service programs and study core subjects in school, "not because we are against them, but because we can no longer carry them on our backs."


Shas said in response that Lapid is trying to "blind the Israeli public, but the public is intelligent enough to understand this is deception."


In a statement, the party mocked Lapid, saying "as someone who risked his life for the country while serving at an army newspaper and whose education does not match that which is given at Shas' school system, Lapid has been trying for a while now to blind the public with verbal trickery."

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