WASHINGTON – Yair Lapid on Tuesday congratulated Kadima on returning “home” to
the Likud and argued that the creation of a national unity government
strengthened his new position as the head of the only centrist party in
“Kadima came back to be what it has actually always has been,
which is part of the Likud,” Lapid charged during an address to the Rabbinical
Assembly of the Conservative movement in Atlanta. “They came back home and I
want to use this opportunity to congratulate them on this
Lapid’s new Yesh Atid party was polling at upwards of 11
Knesset seats had elections been called for early September, as had been
expected until early Tuesday morning.
While analysts have been
interpreting the national unity decision as a significant setback for the
emerging politician, Lapid contended that the anticipated delay of more than a
year before elections will allow him to organize and build his
“We are now the only centrist party,” he told the
Conservative rabbis he was addressing. “We became the sole representative of the
majority of the people of Israel.”
Now, he said, “we are going to
campaign to unite all sane forces.”
In his remarks, Lapid laid out some
of the social issues he sees as central to his platform and to the interests of
He said that the “Rotem Bill,” which would give the Orthodox
rabbinic authorities in Israel more control over conversion, must “disappear”;
civil marriage must be implemented; and that he would do everything in his power
so that women could pray at the Western Wall wearing tallitot.
cannot be the only country in the Western World that has no freedom of religion
for Jews,” he said.
Asked in the question and answer session after his
speech about security, Lapid stressed the importance of the government working
towards a two-state solution.
He said the Palestinians had made many
mistakes, but that Israel still needed to be trying to negotiate a peaceful
resolution in the shortest time possible.
“We have to be near this table,
and we’re not anywhere this table right now,” he said.
In response to a
question about what he would be doing now that elections were postponed, Lapid
answered: “hard work.”
He characterized the additional time before
elections as helpful because with a large 94-seat coalition there would be very
few voices of opposition – a “huge vacancy” in the Israeli political center that
he would fill.
“The last person who had such a coalition was Nicolae
Ceausescu in Romania,” he said to laughter. “There’s not a lot they can say
against the government if they’re in the government, and we’re going to be the
clear voice of the people.”