The campaign for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party started and finished with a sprint
Three of the parties’ top ten physically ran through Yarkon
Park in Tel Aviv on Monday to talk with and convince undecided voters to vote
for the party.
The purposes of the run were “running to convince
undecided voters” and to show that even physically that the party’s energy and
“momentum is very powerful.”
This theme was a rare theme that lasted
through the campaign with unwilting emphasis: that Yesh Atid is a “new kind of
party with a new kind of politician,” moving away from “the politics of
“Banu Lishanot,” or we came to change, was the campaign’s slogan
that it hammered away throughout, at one event having each of its top 25
candidates uttering the phrase as each candidate introduced the next candidate
on the list.
The energy of the newness also lasted throughout the
campaign with Lapid and some of his top Knesset list members springing across
the country, holding innumerable press conferences and sending an even larger
number of press releases and responses to ongoing events.
Lapid has been
one of the parties with an Anglo-focus, placing Beit Shemesh activist Dov Lipman
on his list at number 17.
On Sunday, Yesh Atid put out a video and letter
from Lapid in English.
They focused on his appreciation of Anglos as
being the special class of new “ of choice” who came to Israel from a values
perspective, since unlike immigrants from poorer nations, economics is usually
not the reason for Anglo-aliya.
Besides newness, energy and giving Anglos
some extra attention, there were some other messages that lasted the test of
time of the campaign.
Lapid never fails to emphasize his commitment to
all citizens, especially Haredim, sharing “an equal burden” of participating in
the IDF and national service.
To highlight their position as a leader on
this issue, Yesh Atid filed a petition with the High Court of Justice last month
to block Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to exempt 1,300 haredim
from military service in favor of national service.
At the same time,
Lapid went out of his way to have religious Jews on his list, including Lipman,
and even more prominently, Shai Piron at number two, and Aliza Lavi at number
Lapid maintained his criticism of Netanyahu for “wasting four
years” in not negotiating seriously with the Palestinians.
But while he
was forthright with enunciating what concessions he would not make: not
splitting Jerusalem, no return of refugees and no return of settlement blocks,
including Ariel where he gave his key foreign policy speech, he has been
consistently vague about what concessions he would make to lure the Palestinians
For example, he has not got on record as to whether he would give
the Palestinians the settlement building freeze they have demanded to restart
Other than those messages, many other messages have been
alternately raised and highlighted at different times.
During parts of
the campaign, Lapid indicated a key message was improving education by
empowering local officials and increasing teaching time of subjects instead of
the current focus on standardized tests.
He has spoken less about that
lately, and focused more on his image as defender of the middle class, although
it is unclear how radically different his economic policies would be from
Netanyahu as he has also criticized the economic left.
At the start of
the campaign he spoke only about his own message.
As time has worn on and
he needed to distinguish himself more from parties with overlapping ideas, he
has focused his message more on his conditions for joining a Netanyahu-led
Lapid has also slammed other parties more both for their rush
to join the next coalition at any price, and for other parties’ announced
refusal to join the next coalition.
Yesh Atid has alternated between
slamming Netanyahu, to making sure it does not burn bridges from joining him
later, to attacking him hard again in the final moments of the campaign for his
late appointment (viewed by many as a gimmick) of Moshe Kahlon as the new head
of the Israel Land Authority.
Also, there were at least two rude and
unexpected awakenings for his plan to grab the newest, centrist and most
energized party on the block vote: Tzipi Livni and Naftali Bennett.
has taken votes or at least potential growth votes from the center, while
Bennett has either beaten out slightly or at least split the new and exciting
Bennett, in particular, has often stolen the spotlight down
the stretch when his statements and controversies outpaced Lapid’s in netting
Statistically, Lapid has polled mostly around 10 Knesset
seats, give or take a few. He probably would have had more growth room had Livni
not jumped in or if Habayit Hayehudi had stayed under its old less dynamic
But some commentators say that Lapid’s constant campaigning and
ground game have been underestimated, and in a best case scenario that Lipmann,
at 17, could still make it into the Knesset.
One thing is for certain:
Lapid is a new force in Israeli politics and his dynamism may mean that this
round is only the beginning of building a legacy even exceeding his father Tommy
Lapid’s, who at one point led a party of 15 seats.