Opinion: Is There a Future?

January 30, 2013 9:00 am 0 comments

Yair Lapid. Credit: Yesh Atid/Wikimedia Commons.

It’s now clear that the polls were wrong: Yesh Atid (Hebrew for “there is a future”) party leader Yair Lapid took many votes away from Likud and dramatically eroded the ruling party’s presence in Israel’s next Knesset. But now comes the real test: Does he have staying power?

Yair Lapid chose to spend the day after the big election celebrations at home with his family and his close friends. When he came out for the first time that day, at precisely 8 p.m., to greet the countless reporters and photographers waiting outside his house to hear him declare that he will not agree to be a part of an anti-Netanyahu bloc, Lapid looked happy and excited, as though he was still having trouble wrapping his head around his newfound status.

Lapid officially began his political career more than a year ago. He was convinced that the government was about to collapse and that he needed to hurry to organize his entry into politics before reality caught him unprepared. But his preparation was premature. The government did not collapse. On the contrary—it became even stronger several months later when Shaul Mofaz and his 28-seat strong Kadima Party joined the coalition.

Likud feared Lapid’s entry into the political arena at the helm of the new Yesh Atid (Hebrew for “there is a future”) party, mainly because of his potential to transfer votes from the Right to the Left with the image of a centrist party. All the polls that came out throughout the campaign indicated a very clear-cut conclusion: Lapid won’t take a single vote away from the Right. In hindsight, it is now clear that the polls were wrong. Lapid took many votes away from Likud and dramatically eroded the ruling party’s presence in the next Knesset.

It was important to Lapid to start at the beginning — to establish a brand new party, from scratch, and make sure that it is populated by fresh faces. His rivals mocked him during his campaign for flaunting hollow slogans, for not having the necessary experience to address the hard issues or ideology behind the question that launched his campaign—Where’s the money?—and for directing his insipid campaign at the haters of the ultra-Orthodox and middle class Tel Aviv residents.

Lapid’s image did end up taking a hit. November’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza made his platform irrelevant. When Tzipi Livni announced the establishment of another center-left party, Hatnuah, Lapid took a major tumble, reaching a mere six seats in one of the polls. But Lapid kept at it. He repeated the same message with the same empty slogans, and it worked. The number of Knesset seats that the polls predicted for his party began climbing steadily until Election Day—when he won 19 seats.

Nili Reichman, Lapid’s media adviser, says that “the campaign went well because, contrary to common belief, he didn’t move from the top down, but rather quite the opposite. Lapid hosted events that started out with 30 people, and then grew to 150 people and ultimately reached 700 people. He combed the country and during the course of all the meetings and conferences he realized that the issues that occupy the public’s minds are not the issues that the media talks about, but rather the cost of living, rent, etc.”

Three weeks ago, Reichman claimed that if Lapid managed to cross the 12-seat threshold and get 13 seats in the polls, then the 13 would turn into 18. “When I said it, people laughed at me,” she says.

While Lapid was traveling throughout the country, he learned just how disappointed the left-wing voters were with Livni and her decision to sit in the opposition without doing anything after winning 28 Knesset seats in 2009. He promised them that anyone that votes for him is really voting for someone who will not rest for a minute, whether in the coalition or the opposition.

Lapid’s celebrity status (up until recently he was a television host) obviously helped him during his campaign. In the southern parts of the country, people came to his campaign events even if they were just looking for a night out. They heard him, and they ended up liking him.

Common denominator

But Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid, also got a boost from the many mistakes made by his political rivals, like Livni’s initiative to unite the center-left parties for example. According to one of Lapid’s associates, “though he is seen as a political rookie, he managed to gracefully get through two attempts at political spin at his expense: The first was Livni’s call for unity, at a time when the law no longer allowed it, and the second was Shelly Yachimovich’s call for an alternative government to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Lapid rebuffed these attempts and declared that any coalition that Yachimovich would try to forge with Livni and the ultra-Orthodox parties to bypass Netanyahu would end up being the most extortionist government Israel has ever known.

Now, Lapid and Netanyhau have exchanged messages through their emissaries, raising the possibility of the two joining forces in the next coalition. That exchange is ongoing.

The key issue that the next government will have to address is the equality in sharing the burden (mandatory service, be it military or civilian, for all citizens). For Lapid, this issue is do or die. When Lapid outlined his plan for recruiting the ultra-Orthodox to the military he was harshly criticized by the social protest movement and the “suckers encampment” protesters (a group of current and reserves soldiers who camped out in protest of military exemptions for the religious).

In his plan, Lapid suggested granting the ultra-Orthodox full exemption from service, followed by the establishment of a civilian induction center that assigns civilian service within the ultra-Orthodox community to anyone whom the IDF did not want to recruit. The rest would continue to study in the yeshivot (religious schools).

But Lapid rejected the criticism. “In our current situation, we are being screwed three times over,” he says. “Once when we exempted them from duty, once when we stuck them in yeshivot where they can’t go out and work, and once when the state has to foot the bill while they study.”

It is not clear whether the ultra-Orthodox parties will fully agree to Lapid’s plan, but there is almost no doubt that they will agree to the first part: five more years of complete exemption. What happens after five years? That will no longer be the current government’s problem. What is more, in our amazing political arena, five years very often turn into 10 or more.

The budding partnership between Lapid and Netanyahu will probably have to withstand some trying challenges in the coming years. Netanyahu is suspicious of Lapid. He needs him, but doesn’t want to be dependent on him. Lapid, as a rookie politician, may turn out to be a favorable partner, or, alternately, as someone who butts heads, like Shaul Mofaz and Yohanan Plesner did over the ultra-Orthodox enlistment issue at one time. On the other hand, so far, Lapid has proven that he is capable of learning from other people’s mistakes. Perhaps he will remember how things ended up for Mofaz and Plesner (whose Kadima Party barely met the minimum threshold of votes and will enter the next Knesset with only two seats, as opposed to the 28 seats the party held prior to the election), and draw the necessary conclusions for his own conduct.

This story first appeared in Israel Hayom and is distributed with the permission of that newspaper.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.