Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid has been busy. Besides campaign visits around
the country, he has made a number of major policy speeches, including his
address on security and diplomatic issues at the Ariel University Center last
week and his speech in Tel Aviv on reforming the entire governmental structure
on Wednesday. The two big events were notable for their differences.
Ariel speech had hundreds of attendees packed into a large auditorium. Most were
Ariel students, but the audience included people of all ages. Yesh Atid
stands were set up around the outside of the auditorium with election
paraphernalia, half of which was in Russian, a move appreciated by the strong
contingent of Russian Israelis present.
Many in this group said they had
previously voted for Yisrael Beytenu, but that when Liberman had, as they saw
it, failed to bring a solution to the “Tal Law” dispute, they switched their
allegiance to – or were at least flirting with – Lapid and the hope that he
could get a new law passed that would integrate haredim into the army and
Some of these supporters said they are highly skeptical
that any politician will ever keep promises, but since Lapid is new, they are
willing to give him a shot.
In contrast, the big Tel Aviv speech on
reforming the governmental structure was attended by under 50 people, all of
whom were either journalists – most of the big media outlets were present –
activists, or people associated with the Center for Citizens Empowerment in
Israel, which was hosting the event.
The Ariel speech was messy and
chaotic, with Meretz and right-wing activists both trying to interrupt, and a
fairly open question-and-answer session.
The Tel Aviv speech was
carefully orchestrated, except for the passing around of the microphone among
the speakers – which provided some comic relief as they tried to untangle
themselves from its cables – and only a few questions were taken from the media,
carefully chosen by Yesh Atid spokeswoman Nili Richman.
In Ariel, Lapid
was plainly tense and trying hard not to make mistakes in the foreign policy
minefield that has not been his primary focus or expertise. He had prepared
remarks that had clearly been vetted word for word to precisely express whatever
nuance he was trying to achieve.
In Tel Aviv, Lapid spoke without any
notes and was in his element, talking about one of the key domestic issues that
has been a focus of his since long before he entered politics.
also an opportunity to highlight new Yesh Atid faces Herzliya Mayor Yael German
and former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yaakov Perry.