A surprise political bid by a former prominent Israeli journalist and television host shows the country pulling in politically toward the center.
Yair Lapid, the 49-year-old Yesh Atid Party leader, made a surprise appearance in Israel’s election for prime minister Tuesday. Preliminary polls showed his party heading for fourth place, but instead it placed second. The Yesh Atid Party (in English, “there is a future”) won 19 of 120 parliamentary seats. Lapid’s now positioned as a leading political figure in years to come, according to the New York Times
Lapid quit journalism in January 2012 to enter politics. He founded Yesh Atid that spring. He predicted he would gain political ground by aiming to represent the middle class. Lapid achieved exactly this, invigorating hundreds of thousands of middle class Israelis to vote with his centrist party.
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Lapid comes from a line of politicos. His father, who was a Holocaust survivor and passed away in 2008, formed the liberal-secular Shinui party. In 2003, that contingent won 15 parliamentary seats, entering into a coalition with then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — a comparable feat to what Lapid Jr. accomplished this year. But unlike his secularist father, the new Lapid era is one of inclusion.
He’s even played it safe on his stance with Palestinians. He’s said that he favors the existence of a Palestinian state, but while maintaining Israeli control of West Bank settlements. He also opposes splitting up Jerusalem.
The Washington Post commented that Lapid could be in the perfect position to make a bid for premiership, but it could be a struggle. Max Fisher wrote that Lapid will have to bring disparate political threads toward the center if he could possibly accomplish this —and few think he can achieve it. His insistence that ultra-orthodox Israelis serve in the military has taken many aback. They currently have a religious exemption.
But because of his party’s surprise showing this year, it’s not totally out of the question for Lapid to make a second strong showing for office.
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