Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid, which won 19 seats and unexpectedly became the second largest in Israel’s next parliament, owes its success to people like Efrat Shemesh. The 35-year-old teacher and mother of three said she had voted for Lapid in the hope that he would “weigh in on social issues” in the next administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We want a better future for our children, affordable housing and better education,” she said. “And too much is going to the ultra-Orthodox at the expense of secular people.”
Her complaints are shared by many Israelis, for whom worries about making ends meet — not peace with the Palestinians — were a decisive factor in a vote that carried echoes of the social justice protests that swept Israel 11
2 years ago.
Lapid, a 49-year-old former newspaper columnist and host of TV talk shows and news programs, has followed in the footsteps of his father, Yosef Lapid, a journalist who entered politics at the head of the staunchly secular Shinui party, leading it to electoral success and joining the government of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The younger Lapid established Yesh Atid, or There Is a Future, just nine months ago and quickly built a following among mostly secular Israelis drawn to his plainspoken messages.
In a typical pitch in one of his TV ads, Lapid’s image was projected upside-down as he announced that “everything is backward.”
“Those who serve in the army are not taken care of, while those who don’t serve are given money. Isn’t that backward?” Lapid said. “Those who pay the most taxes get the least education from the state. It’s all backward. The middle class, those who work the hardest, will never be able to buy an apartment. Those who don’t work get apartments at half-price. I’m telling you, it’s backward. So I ask, isn’t it about time to turn things around?”
Although he has put domestic issues first, Lapid says Israel cannot allow a continued impasse in peace efforts, and he suggests that they should be revived along the lines of previous Israeli proposals.
He favors a return to talks with the Palestinians to reach a two-state solution to the conflict but says the deal should leave large Jewish settlements in the West Bank under Israel’s sovereignty, with possible land swaps. To drive that point home, he launched his election campaign in Ariel, a large settlement town deep in the northern West Bank.