Israel's Shooting Star Yair Lapid May Quickly Crash Back to Earth

Telegenic Leader Fails To Offer Bold Challenge to Status Quo

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By Leonard Fein

Published January 29, 2013.
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Is there a future for Yesh Atid (There Is A Future), the party that was the surprise star of the recent Israeli elections?

If past is precedent, the future of the new party is not promising. The history of parties that emerge suddenly out of nowhere strongly suggests that they return, in short order, to whence they came – i.e., nowhere. This is particularly true when their sudden success is attributable to a celebrity at the party’s helm, as is the case with Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid, a prominent talk-show host and columnist, son of a bold and outspokenly secularist father who served briefly as Minister of Justice in the Sharon cabinet.

But the son, for all his alleged charisma, is heir neither to his father’s boldness nor to his radical secularism. He promises attention to bread and butter issues but has little to say about the Palestinians save that Jerusalem must remain “united,” a somewhat ominous stance since it is at odds with a two-state solution, a solution that calls for the division of Jerusalem into both Palestine’s and Israel’s capitals. And, even less bold, he is apparently comfortable with the prospect of entering Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

More: Lapid’s platform states, that “no new settlements will be built during the negotiations” he foresees but that “settlement growth will be allowed within the needs of the population (Article 2).” However, the Israeli government has repeatedly agreed in the past — starting with the Oslo agreement — not to built new settlements but only to strengthen existing ones. Yet during that time, the settler population in the West Bank alone (not including the annexed territories in East Jerusalem or around it) has risen from 107,000 (in 1992) to 324,000 (2011).

The fact is that parties such as Yesh Atid have dotted Israel’s political history to no great effect. And for all the surprise of Yesh Atid’s sudden emergence from non-existence to becoming the second largest party in the new Knesset, with 19 seats, there is no reason to suppose that its destiny will break the mold.

No, the recent Israeli elections in fact had a more striking outcome — to wit, the slap in the face they delivered to Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose electoral fortunes plummeted from 42 seats in the preceding Knesset to 31 seats in the new Knesset.

True, Netanyahu will almost surely be at the helm of the new government, but his bravado cannot obliterate his poor performance in the elections.


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