Yesh Atid sprints through campaign season

Party candidates run through TA in effort to sway undecided voters, show that even physically Yesh Atid's energy is "powerful."

Yesh Atid candidates running through TA's park Hayarkon 370 (photo credit: Courtesy of Yesh Atid )
Yesh Atid candidates running through TA's park Hayarkon 370
(photo credit: Courtesy of Yesh Atid )
The campaign for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party started and finished with a sprint – literally.
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 old.”
“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.
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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 seven.
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 back.
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 negotiations.
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 coalition.
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.
Livni 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 party vote.
Bennett, in particular, has often stolen the spotlight down the stretch when his statements and controversies outpaced Lapid’s in netting headlines.
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 leaders.
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.