Yesh Atid surprised pundits when it came second in the January general election in Israel, despite the fact it was a brand new political party with a leader, Yair Lapid, who had never served in Knesset. But it doesn’t stop there. If a poll released today is right, then Yesh Atid has increased its popularity by almost 50% since the election.
It has 19 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, but if new elections were held now, according to a Knesset Channel survey, it would win 28. And you guessed it — that means that it would be the biggest Knesset party and Yair Lapid would be Prime Minister.
In today’s poll, it looks like Yesh Atid has been winning its newfound support from the right. The religious-Zionist Jewish Home party loses two seats and Likud-Beytenu, which was already miserable at winning only 31 seats in the election, is down to 25.
It would seem that the opinion changes since the election reflect the fact that the coalition negotiations led by Likud-Beytenu’s Benjamin Netanyahu were long and chaotic, and that Lapid came out looking like a winner. After all, he stuck to his insistence that Haredi parties were omitted from the coalition, and that the new government progresses legislation for a draft of Haredi men to the army.
The question now is whether Prime Minister Netanyahu can pull back from the humiliation of the coalition negotiations and regain his political dominance. There are no obvious initiatives on the horizon that will see him woo the public, apart from any flexing of muscles on security matters. But we’re now entering the phase where Lapid’s newness to the political fold may lead to the end of his honeymoon and the start of Bibi’s reassertion of his power. Lapid has just become Finance Minister, a position he didn’t particularly want, and only once his decisions start to filter through and impact of people’s day-to-day lives will we know if he’s built for politics, or whether today’s poll is a case of him peaking early.