New Faces of Israel's Election

Competition on Right and Center and for Orthodox Vote

Fresh Face: Ex-news anchor Yair Lapid may not become the next Israeli prime minister. But he leads a crop of fresh faces contesting this month’s general election.
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Fresh Face: Ex-news anchor Yair Lapid may not become the next Israeli prime minister. But he leads a crop of fresh faces contesting this month’s general election.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published January 07, 2013, issue of January 04, 2013.
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The social protests and association with a famous father set the stage for Yair Lapid, founder and head of the new, centrist Yesh Atid party.

The 49-year-old son of the late justice minister and Knesset member, Yosef Lapid, Yair Lapid entered politics in January after years as a widely respected television anchor, newspaper columnist, author, screenwriter and actor. Opinion polls predict that his party will win around eight of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

Lapid’s party gained its current popularity by promising to address the concerns raised in the 2011 tent protests, known as J14. These concerns include escalating housing costs and Israel’s high cost of living. His vows to improve education, health and transportation have attracted more politically centrist supporters than the Labor party, which also sees itself as the so-called J14 movement’s natural ally. Unlike Labor, Lapid proposes to increase efficiency rather than make far-reaching changes in the nation’s social welfare system.

Lapid strongly believes in drafting Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, and Arabs for military service. The two groups’ current exemption from serving was one of the key points of protest for many J14 demonstrators.

As for the Palestinian issue, Lapid advocates a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but rejects what most consider one of its central planks, namely that Jerusalem will be shared and East Jerusalem will become the Palestinian capital. “We cannot blink on this issue,” he said in November. “When it comes to Jerusalem, there are no compromises.”

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