Even Lapid's voters wouldn't want him as prime minister

Centrist Yesh Atid is gaining power, but does anyone really want a one-issue party with a lax stance on security running the country? Opinion.

Chana Roberts

OpEds Yesh Atid Chair Yair Lapid
Yesh Atid Chair Yair Lapid

Yesh Atid and its leader Yair Lapid first became part of the Knesset after the January 2013 elections, when the "centrist" party gained 19 seats.

Most of those seats came from the left: The Likud-[Yisrael] Beytenu joint list received 31 Knesset seats in total, while Labor received only 15 seats.

At the time, Lapid was widely regarded as the man who would force "equal" army service by removing the option for haredim to receive deferrals and exemptions - something many, if not most, secular Israelis were very much in favor of.

He did, in fact, live up to this expectation: One of the first things Lapid did was completely cancel (instead of slightly changing) the "Tal Law," which allowed yeshiva students to defer army service, and which the Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional in 2012.

As a result of Lapid's ferocious determination to force haredim to serve in the IDF, the haredi parties refused to sit with him in the coalition, and slammed Jewish Home's Naftali Bennett (currently Education Minister) for joining hands with Lapid and telling Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to either take them both, or take neither of them.

In the next elections, held in 2015, Lapid's party dropped from 19 seats to its current 11 seats, both because many voters felt they had been misled, and because his main platform - forcing "equality in the IDF" - had been achieved. (It is worth noting that the number of haredim who volunteer to serve dropped drastically the moment Lapid tried to force the IDF on them.)

In the January 26, 2018, weekend edition of Israel Hayom, journalist Yehuda Shlezinger asked UTJ MK Moshe Gafni about the fact that "whenever there are crises about religious issues...[Lapid] rises in the polls."

However, Gafni insisted there is no connection: "The guy [Lapid] hasn't done anything. He passed a law...which did nothing except make contractors rich, and once in a while he makes headlines talking about religion and state. If it were true that the issue of closing supermarkets on Shabbat (Sabbath) raised the numbers of those who oppose the law, Yisrael Beytenu would also have risen in the polls, and it did not."

Current polls go back and forth as to whether Yesh Atid or Netanyahu's Likud would be the largest party: A poll from January 1 showed Likud as holding 31 Knesset seats, and Yesh Atid as receiving 26. But a poll from January 12 showed Yesh Atid as receiving 27 Knesset seats, and Likud dropping to 22.

Yet Lapid has no real experience, and indeed, does not even have a high school diploma. He was fired from his role as Finance Minister in December 2014, and currently sits in the opposition, where he gains no experience except for that of opposing the government.

And still, Lapid continues to speak of himself as "the only alternative to Netanyahu."

It is clear now that Lapid's voters have a strong anti-haredi sentiment.

What is not clear is how Lapid will function as a Prime Minister: On the one hand, in 2013 he expressed a desire to be rid of the Arabs and said they don't want peace. On the other hand, he has promised commitment to the two-state solution, and expressed a willingness to evict Jews from their homes and destroy entire Jewish towns.

Most Israelis - and Arabs - do not support a two-state solution. And 70% of Israelis prefer a right-wing government.

Lastly, Lapid has been disrespectful of other MKs and of the coalition itself, calling some MKs "Rottweilers" and vowing to appeal a law he did not approve of in what Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) called a "disgrace to the Knesset."

Israelis need to be aware: While those who harbor anti-haredi sentiments are certainly permitted to do so, expressing those sentiments at the polls will lead to the election of a prime minister who both the left and right disapprove of, who sows the seeds of resentment and division, and who has no clear policy, or experience, regarding crucial security issues.

Israel cannot afford to vote for Lapid. Because no one - other than, perhaps, the Palestinian Authority - can afford for him to win.