News / Middle East

Israel’s Yair Lapid: A Voice for Change or Same Old Same Old?

Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid party gives a statement outside his home in Tel Aviv, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013.  (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid party gives a statement outside his home in Tel Aviv, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Cecily Hilleary
When the final vote was tallied in Israel's election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s Likud-Beitenu Party won only 31 seats, far fewer than had been expected. Another party expected to do well, the religious-nationalist Bayit Yehudi Party led by Naftali Bennett, clinched 12 seats.  But the big surprise was the 19-seat win by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party, twice what polls predicted. His supporters – and many analysts -- say he is a breath of fresh political air. But others are skeptical.
 
Roots
 
Though some call him a neophyte, Lapid is no stranger to politics. His father, Josef Lapid, was a Holocaust survivor from the former Yugoslavia who came to Israel in 1948.  For years a prominent journalist, the elder Lapid ended up forming his own political party and later joined the government of former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
 
Like his father, the Yair Lapid began his career as a reporter and talk show host.  He also wrote columns in Israeli newspapers. He is internet savvy and uses social media like Facebook to deliver his political message that, among other things, calls for affordable housing, new laws to fight corruption, better education and a national constitution, which he believes will help settle religious and state tensions. 
 
That message appears to have helped drive a record turnout of more than 66 percent of Israeli voters.
 
Carlo Strenger is a political commentator and professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University. “All of us, and that includes me, we underestimated the depth of the impact of the social protest movement in the summer of 2011,” he said. “It did something to make Israelis aware that they can actually take their destiny in their own hands; that they can have an impact on politics and its impotent passivity. There is a feeling, ‘We can actually be talking about our destiny.’”
 
David Horovitz, the founding editor of the online publication, The Times of Israel, says Lapid’s supporters registered “a protest vote.”  
 
“The key focus wasn’t the Palestinians or Iran. It was governance and the economy, although those other issues play into the mix.There are going to be at least 50 new faces in the 120-seat parliament, and I think that underlines that Israelis wanted something fresh, something new,” Horovitz said. 
 
“There is nobody on that 19-strong [Yesh Atid candidate] slate who has sat in parliament before, and that’s why he chose them.  He’s got rabbis. He’s got Ethiopian-born educators.  He’s got a very, very nice mix, and I would trust his mix of quite experienced people in journalism, in local government and political activism. And he’s said that his priority will be to stick up for the middle class, to try and build a government for as wide a consensus as possible, to seek a coalition of moderates.” 
 
Coalition Building
 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Jan. 20, 2013.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Jan. 20, 2013.
x
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Jan. 20, 2013.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Jan. 20, 2013.
Netanyahu must now go about forming his new governing coalition and to do so he will need to gain the majority of 120 seats in the Knesset. But will the prime minister turn to his right or left?
 
“Netanyahu is not going to go for a government that he has formed only with center-left parties,” Strenger said. “First of all because he himself is much more right-leaning, and even if he wanted to, he’d have trouble doing so because his party electorate is even more to the right than he is.”
 
Alternatively, Netanyahu has the option of turning rightward, says the Times of Israel’s Horovitz.  
 
“He can just about, probably cobble together a narrow, right-wing and orthodox coalition,” Horovitz said, “but he really doesn’t want to. He will want the new star, Yair Lapid…in the government with him. But Lapid comes at a price.”

In his victory speech last Wednesday, Netanyahu said his first priority is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But he also promised to reduce the cost of living and housing in Israel and to “increase equality” in army service—two issues where he shares common ground with Lapid.

Since 1948, haredi (ultra-orthodox) men are allowed to defer military service as long as they study full-time in yeshivas (religious seminaries). Many marry and have several children while still in yeshiva, which gives them permanent military deferment status.

For his part, Lapid says he will only join a government that is interested in changing the draft law to force everyone to serve in the military. He also said he would not join any government that was not interested in restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.
 
If Netanyahu were to give in on the hot-button issues of the military draft and the Palestinians, he would most certainly face the ire of the political right. Though Naftali Bennett shares Lapid’s support of a universal draft, he does not support a two-state solution with the Palestinians and, rather, would like to annex the entire West Bank.  Meanwhile, orthodox religious parties to the right of Likud-Beitenu would firmly oppose both.
 
Horovitz believes Lapid will attempt to drive a hard bargain with the Likud leader. 
 
“There are people saying he should insist on a rotation of the prime ministership with Netanyahu,” Horovitz said. “So it’s going to be a very interesting process of negotiations and it may not be quick. And it is conceivable, I suppose, that it might not even be successful.”
 
Nothing New Here
 
Dr. Josef Olmert is an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina and former Israeli political insider who knows the issues and the players. He cautions that while Likud may have lost votes, Lapid’s strong showing is not a “win” for the left.
 
Dr. Josef OlmertDr. Josef Olmert
x
Dr. Josef Olmert
Dr. Josef Olmert
“Yes, Lapid is in favor of a two-state solution, but we need to understand that people who say so include also Mr. Netanyahu. At least formally he adheres to the principle of a two-state solution, as he said in his famous speech in Bar-Ilan University in 2009. If you ask me, does he believe in that, I would say, ‘No.’”
 
If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitarization and Israel's security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state
    Olmert says many people claim to believe in a two-state solution, but usually with certain conditions. 
 
“When you look at the conditions of Yair Lapid, you can see that this is his ideology—most of the territories to be part of a Palestinian state, but not all of them; most blocs of [Jewish] settlements to remain under Israeli control; Jerusalem is not to be divided, and so on,” Olmert said.
 
In fact, Lapid outlined his vision for peace with the Palestinians in a speech last October at Ariel University: “We’re not looking for a happy marriage with the Palestinians, but for a divorce agreement we can live with,” he told his audience. 
 
He called for a freeze on new settlements, but not giving up existing settlement blocs of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Ma'aleh Adumim, which he believes should remain within the State of Israel. 
 
Lapid also opposes a shared Jerusalem, and also says he would like to expand Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile system.  
 
In contrast to Netanyahu, Lapid says he opposes a military strike on Iran, which he explains would only drive Iran further into developing nuclear capability.  Instead, he calls for increasing sanctions and ultimately bringing about the fall of the ayatollahs.
 
As for relations with the United States, Lapid says they are stronger than the people in the relationship—i.e., Netanyahu and President Barack Obama. “It would help if we had a different government and if we had a different prime minister,” Lapid said. 
 
The official election results will be handed to Israeli President Shimon Peres next week, after which Knesset Members will make their recommendations for prime minister. 
 
By the looks of it, Netanyahu will likely be that man.

You May Like

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid