Yair Lapid, the centrist politician and former media celebrity, has emerged as Israel’s strongest opposition leader, but it seems he, at least for now, has not missed his goal of forming a liberal coalition that could oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power.
Exit polls suggest his party won 16 to 18 seats in parliament with 120 seats and that the broader bloc of anti-Netanyahu parties won 59 seats. But it consists of ideologically diverse parties with conflicting agendas that will find it difficult to work together. Based on the exit polls, it appears that Mr. Netanyahu has an easier path to power.
In his desire for mr. To oust Netanyahu, Mr. Lapid done what many politicians consider unthinkable.
Mr. Lapid has promised that he will not insist on accepting the premiership if it will be an obstacle to ousting his opponent.
The proposal displays a level of humility that is rarely seen in Israeli politics – or most political theater. But it was not merely an act of noble obligation. Mr. Lapid was well aware of the problems he was likely to encounter in some of the other parties against Mr. Netanyahu was opposed, too late to support as leader of an alternative coalition.
Two of Mr. Lapid’s potential coalition partners, Gideon Saar, a conservative former minister who recently stepped down from Netanyahu’s Likud, and Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina party, considered themselves candidates for prime minister, despite the relatively modest size. of their parties. Mr. Bennett promised before the election that he would not sit in a government led by Mr. Lapid, which he considers too left. Mr. Saar said he would be willing to work with Mr. Lapid to lead the government.
Mr. Netanyahu has focused his own campaign as a head-to-head match against Mr. Lapid, throw the race as one between right and left and finish him off as a lightweight.
Mr. Lapid led a tranquil campaign focusing on calls to preserve liberal democracy and Netanyahu’s stated goal of forming a government made up of right-wing and religious parties.
Before the election, Lapid spoke to party activists and described the governing coalition that Mr. Netanyahu wanted to form, and that he wanted to prevent an extremist, homophobic, chauvinist, racist and anti-democratic government. He added: “This is a government where no one represents working people, the people who pay taxes and believe in the rule of law.”
Mr. Lapid also asked to protect the judiciary against Mr. Netanyahu, who is facing charges of corruption and who, along with his right-wing and religious allies, intends to limit the powers of the Supreme Court.
As finance minister in the Netanyahu-led government formed in 2013, Mr. Lapid introduced changes aimed at sharing the national burden more evenly between mainstream Israelis and ultra-Orthodox men who choose full-time Torah study over work and military service, and which depend on charitable and welfare payments. Most of its policies have been undone by successive governments.
Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid, has run in the last three elections in a tripartite alliance called Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz, a former army chief of staff. Mr. Lapid divorced Blue and White after Gantz renounced a main election promise and, along with Mr. Netanyahu formed an awkward unity government after last year’s election.
After an extremely successful career as a journalist and popular television host, Mr. Lapid the surprise of the election in 2013 when his party exceeded expectations and placed second and made him the main broker in the formation of the coalition.
His father, Yosef Lapid, a Holocaust survivor and an abusive, religious politician, also headed a centrist party and served as justice minister. His mother, Shulamit Lapid, is a well-known novelist.
An amateur boxer known for his comfortable, black clothes, Mr. Lapid came to power as a result of the social justice protests in 2011 by voting for Israel’s struggling middle class.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he maintained the middle level and offered secure positions in the Israeli Jewish consensus.