Following two different Lapids on the campaign trail

Reporter's Notebook: Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid has been busy, holding multiple campaign events.

Yair Lapid 370 (photo credit: Ricardo Mallaco)
Yair Lapid 370
(photo credit: Ricardo Mallaco)
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.
The 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 national service.
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.
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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.
It was also an opportunity to highlight new Yesh Atid faces Herzliya Mayor Yael German and former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yaakov Perry.