Lapid: We will defeat incitement in fifth elections

Lapid complained that for 15 years "no one did anything" about the cost of living.

 Prime Minister Yair Lapid at launch of Yesh Atid's elections campaign. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid at launch of Yesh Atid's elections campaign.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Fighting internal division, hatred and incitement is at the heart of Yesh Atid’s platform, Prime Minister Yair Lapid told a crowd at Expo Tel Aviv, where the party launched its campaign on Wednesday evening.

Lapid claimed that Israel’s internal divisions, not Iran, were its most serious threat.

“Everything has changed in the last year, but not our values, not the things we care about,” said Lapid, pointing to the rule of law, strengthening the middle class, freedom of religion and the press, peace with the Palestinians, and a free economy as the goals of the party.

Lapid said Yesh Atid had defeated “the incitement and poison machine” in Israel’s past four elections, and would do so again in the fifth election in three years

A crowd of thousands chanted, “Yair Lapid the prime minister,” and the campaign slogan, “Yesh Atid, we came to change.”

 Launch of Yesh Atid's campaign. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Launch of Yesh Atid's campaign. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Party members walked onto the convention floor to a mix of Yesh Atid’s anthem, “Yesh Atid [there is a future], it is already here, there is a future, because the time has come,” along with well-known Israeli pop songs.

The audience waved an array of flags, including Israeli flags, party emblems and LGBT flags.

Newly joined MK Michal Shir joined the event in her first public appearance after leaving New Hope earlier this week.

The prime minister said that Yesh Atid would need to establish a government “from a position of strength” in order to recruit thousands of new police officers, provide unemployment benefits to the self-employed, strengthen the status of teachers, and approve civil marriages.

“Faced with these challenges, we need to stand together,” said Lapid. “Division weakens us, togetherness strengthens us. Different types of people need to gather in a place that will allow them to live together and have a common good.

Can Israelis unite? 

“We are different people. Each and every one of us has different memories and different thoughts and our own private history, but we have a common goal: to make sure that Israel is democratic, Jewish, strongly liberal, progressive and prosperous.” 

The event was designed to compete with Likud’s famously festive events. The MKs were cheered on like rock stars, and Economy Minister Orna Barbivay called the gathering a “force of nature, not a party.”

Her words reflected one of the party’s main messages: Yesh Atid is a governing party, and it has officially joined the “big leagues.”

Another recurring theme was authenticity. Lapid opened his speech with a story of when the party was founded, “in a living room in Kadima-Zoran.” He drew a direct line between then and now, 10 years later, arguing that Yesh Atid was based on an authentic grassroots movement.

Lapid repeated a sentence he has said many times since the election was announced: “We will not be a rich country where people have trouble paying their bills.”

Lapid made fun of Netanyahu’s campaign against the high cost of living.

For 15 years, “no one did anything” about the cost of living, he said. “Israel became more and more expensive, and the government told its citizens that they [had to bear] it.”

For 15 years "no one did anything" about the cost of living. "Israel became more and more expensive, and the government told its citizens that they bore it."

Prime Minister Yair Lapid

Netanyahu never cared about the cost of living, but “he finally learned how to fill up at a gas station,” Lapid said, as the crowd laughed.

Three people disrupted Lapid’s speech with cries about the long hours worked by medical interns. The crowd drowned them out, but Lapid asked the crowd to let them be heard.

Drumbeats and party lights crisscrossed the crowd during a video that listed the party’s achievements over the past year. Lapid then walked onto the stage to rhyming cries of “Ooh, ahh, Yesh Atid, Prime Minister Lapid.”

Most of the attendees reflected Yesh Atid’s electorate: middle-aged, bareheaded and Ashkenazi. However, some kippot were visible in the crowd, and a new Yesh Atid haredi activist was also present.