The big surprise of Israel’s election is the rise of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, which won 19 seats in the upcoming 19th Knesset. The second biggest party after the Likud, it is presumed that Lapid will join Netanyahu’s next government as a senior partner.
As a large party with 19 mandates Yesh Atid will be very influential on the government’s policy in all aspects, including the possibility of the resumption of the now dead peace process.
What are Lapid’s principles regarding a possible process?
The party’s platform, formulated by Ofer Shelach, a former journalist and number 6 on the party list, states that Israel will strive to return to the negotiation table with the Palestinians with the principle of “two states for two nations” serving as the basis of the process. Yesh Atid perceives a possible peace process as a response to an ensemble of threats looming over the State of Israel and the only way to effectively minimize these threats in the long term.
What will happen with the communities of Judea and Samaria? Yair Lapid chose to launch his campaign in the settlement of Ariel, which could be telling about his future intentions regarding Judea and Samaria. Yesh Atid’s platform states that within the framework of the negotiations, the large blocks— i.e. Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion— will remain within the agreed upon boundaries of the State of Israel. During peace negations no new communities will be established, but until the signing of an agreement the natural growth of the existing communities will be taken into consideration.
The platform further states that Israel’s future borders will be decided on the basis of Israel’s security needs, as well as the reality created since 1967, “Both sides will acknowledge that it is a mutual interest that the settlement blocks remain in Israel’s hands.” A land swap is an option, according to Yesh Atid. However, Lapid has stated several times throughout his campaign that the communities in Judea and Samaria constitute a financial burden on Israel’s economy, and he intends to change that.
The Palestinian refugees’ issue will be settled within the boundaries of a future Palestinian state.
The platform chooses to focus on the rabid incitement against Jews and Israel within the Palestinian educational system, calling for its complete end as a part of any future agreement.
As for Jerusalem, the platform clearly states: “Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital and its unity is a national symbol of the first degree. Jerusalem will remain united under Israeli sovereignty, for Jerusalem is not merely a location or a city, but the center of the Jewish – Israeli ethos and the holy place that the Jews yearned for throughout the ages.” Lapid has made several such public statements. A few days ago he stated that there is no point in negotiating on Jerusalem, “we have no existence without Jerusalem.” He intends to grant Israeli citizenship to the Arabs of east Jerusalem.
Many questions remain unanswered, and on many of the issues Yesh Atid’s platform is ambiguous and obscure. The coming months will likely reveal how Lapid’s new 19 member party will affect Israel’s future.