The Daily Rundown | February 04, 2013
>>> prime minister benjamin netanyahu is still in charge but he may no longer be israel 's most consequential pligss. we're taking a deep dive into the new face of israeli politics . his name is yair lapid . he is a former tv personality turned politician who came out of nowhere to deal israeli conservatives a surprising setback in last month's election. lapid 's centrist party is second with 19. and it's not just about the numbers. it's about expectations. and by that measure, lapid won easily. the 49-year-old capitalized on his charisma and national reputation to gain traction on the political stage. he opted to put issues that have typically defined israeli centrists on the back burner. namely, the issue of settlements and middle east peace. lapid made himself the champion of the middle class , campaigning for lower taxes and against the military exexemption for ultra orthodox jews . for many people i would listen to political messages and think they didn't understand me or my needs, and then he came along. but not everyone is convinced. "the new york times" quoted israeli historian tom zageb as saying voters who chose lapid voted for nothing but a tv image. lapid has gone from political newcomer to potential kingmaker in less than a year. how will he use his power? will he remain a working class hero , claim a mand teet revive peace talks or start building the kind of political resume that could knock off netanyahu himself the next time around. no matter what lapid does, he's already changed the face of political campaigns in israel because he ended up using grassroots support, voter outreach and internet campaign and he turned it into a potentially winning formula. mark mehlman was lapid 's personal pollster. many of you know mark from his work for john kerry and a lot of other democratic campaigns on this side -- on this time zone . but you did some work for lapid .
>> thank you.
>> you've done some work in israel before. what made this israeli election different from other ones that you've worked in in?
>> usually security issues are at the center of israeli elections . for a number of reasons in this election, security issues weren't the central topic of discussion. they weren't the central focus of voters. there was a real rising of the middle class , a concern about economic issues.
>> where is --
>> the economy is pretty good compared to the united states , but there are a lot of people who are concerned about the cost of living , how the -- the cost of housing is very high, the cost of electricity. other elements of daily life very high. also concern about sharing the burden. ultra orthodox -- members of the ultra orthodox community don't serve in the army and don't really particinate the economy. that's something that's a unique issue for israel . not relevant to the united states . that's something the middle class in israel , the ordinary folks who send their kids to the army, pay taxes, who work have real concerns about.
>> sounds like you were giving advice to a democratic candidate, say, that was maybe too involved in special interests and telling them, hey stop deal with constituency groups. try dealing with what are people talking about every day. did you do focus groups ? is that what you found out?
>> we did focus groups , polling. we had a candidate who came with his own strong views. here's a journalist, not just a tv personality . he was a columnist. he'd written about thyself issuissue these issues for many years.
>> so what is he going to do here? i hate to say, i have no idea what happened to the opposition. you know, when people say, what is the leading opposition party in israel to netanyahu, i sit there and say, well, it's not really labor. there was that other thing that they came up with for a while that seemed to have disappeared.
>> it's not clear who is the opposition yet.
>> they are still trying to figure that out.
>> the stage is putting together a government. it's up to the prime minister to form that government. he's consulting with all the parties, including lapid 's party on what kind of form he's going to put together. he faces a fundamental choice. he can put together a fairly narrow coalition mainly on the right side of the spectrum in terms of security issues and doesn't really contain folks who are focused on these middle class issues, or he can go in a more centrist direction, include lapid --
>> does lapid want in?
>> i think lapid has made clear conditions for his entry. for example, he won't join a coalition that doesn't agree to draft national service for the ultra orthodox community. a few conditions that have to be met. his goal is to make a difference for the public. you do that on the inside if you can. if the government is not willing to accept his conditions, he won't thereby.
>> was this the first -- and what sparked me to want to do this. i read your column. you said you did this in a nontraditional way for israeli politics . social media and all that. is that, do you think you broke some ground here that that now will become the norm?
>> it increasingly will become the norm.
>> i'll be honest. i'm surprised it wasn't sooner in israel . it's a very wired country .
>> it is a very wired country . they don't get as much practice as we do. the last election was four years ago. the reality is that the campaign finance limits in israel are very strick ft for a new party. this was a new party. only got seven minutes of tv time. you can't buy tv time. the government gives you tv time. you can't spend much money. we were forced to use these other media.
>> next time you'll get treated more like a mainstream party?
>> mark mehlmamehlmanmellman, thank you.
>>> our white house soup of the day , split pea . it's one of my favorite but, honestly, keep the ham out.