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October 8, 2015 / 25 Tishri, 5776
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Newest Israeli Party Includes Chairman’s Makeup Artist, Karate Trainer

Yair Lapid (R), head of the new "Yesh Atid" party, with a friend.

Yair Lapid (R), head of the new "Yesh Atid" party, with a friend.
Photo Credit: Yosef/FLASH90

Journalist and Television host turned premier wannabe Yair Lapid’s party’s name, “Yesh Atid” (Hebrew for “There’s a Future”), was a last minute fix. After the party’s original name, “Atid” (“Future”), had been announced, it turned out that it had already been taken, several times, actually, and, judging by how those “Atid” parties performed in previous elections, the future of anyone using Future in their party name was murky at best. Hence the new, improved name.

Now a report by Israel’s Channel 2 News revealed that at least one man’s future will be secure in the new Yesh Atid movement: Founder and Chairman Yair Lapid. The new party rules clearly state that the chairman may not be removed from office until the year 2020.

The new rules do not explicitly name the party chairman, but, obviously, Lapid has been more glaringly synonymous with the new party than Comrades Stalin and Mao had been with theirs. So he’s the chairman, and he gets to stay the chairman until the end of the 2020 term – that’s at least two stints in a political system where most governments are terminated before their time, much as Benjamin Netanyahu’s current government has done.

Lapid was able to establish this and similar convenient rules because he also was the one to appoint his new party’s central committee.

The Lapid politburo includes his wife, his son, Yoav, and many of Yoav’s friends. Other comrades include Lapid’s loyal makeup artist Yael Drukman, his karate instructor, and musician Tamir Harpaz, who collaborated with Lapid on stage back in 2007. Prominent poet Ronny Somek was positioned in second place on the central committee’s list, and rumors are that this will also be his spot on the list for the Knesset.

Israel’s political system does not require that lists of candidates running for a Knesset seat must be chosen through a democratic process. But all the large factions rely on primaries, combined with privileged appointments which are determined by the various parties’ leadership. It is rare in Israel’s modern era for a large faction to be completely controlled by its leader.

But Yair Lapid has, apparently, learned well the lesson of his late father’s political woes. Yosef “Tommy” Lapid’s “Shinui” party won as many as 15 seats in the 2003 election, in third place behind Labor and Likud. But Shinui quickly imploded in 2006, when Lapid’s deputy failed to retain his spot on the list in a democratic primary and left, taking several key members with him.

None of that nonsense in Lapid Jr.’s new, secularist party which is staking a claim on that fickle and hard to define sliver of Israel’s voting public – the center.

Reminiscent of the US “independent” voters, Israel’s election politics has been generating (since the “Revolution” election of 1977 which ended Labor’s uninterrupted rule since 1948) new parties that appealed to the vast population between the Left and the Right, a population routinely tired of “politics as usual.”

The polls this week are predicting around 12 seats for the new party headed by Yair Lapid. Not so bad, considering there’s another, more established, “center” based party out there, Kadima, which is desperately fighting to hold on to its 28 seats in the Knesset. It won’t. As of now Kadima will sink to a mere 13 seats in September.

The new party platform was released yesterday, and here it is:

1. Changing the priorities State priorities, with an emphasis on civil life – education, housing, health, transportation and police, as well as improving the condition of the middle class. 2. Changing the system of government. 3. Equality in education and the draft: all school students must be taught essential classes (the 3 Rs, if you will), everybody will be drafted into the Army, and all the citizens will be encouraged to seek work, including the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs. 4. War against corruption, including corruption in government in the form of institutions like “minister without portfolio,” opting for a government of 18 ministers at most, fortifying the rule of law and protecting the status of the High Court. 5. Growth and economic efficiency – creating growth engines as a way to fight poverty, combating red tape, removing barriers, improving the transportation system, reducing the cost of living and housing costs, and improving social mobility through assistance to small businesses. 6. Education legislation in cooperation with teachers’ unions, eliminating most of the matriculation exams, raising the differential education index, increasing school autonomy. 7. Enact a constitution to regulate tense relations between population groups in Israel. 8. Strive for peace according to an outline of “two states for two peoples,” while maintaining the large settlement blocs and ensuring the safety of Israel.

There have been numerous deriding comments in Israel’s political and Media environments ever since Lapid has announced, a few months ago, his intention to hang his TV host and journalist’s gloves and follow in his father’s footsteps. It should be noted that while his father made no bones of his deep loathing of religious Jews, and, indeed, made hatred of Orthodox Jewish conduct the foundation of his political success, Yair Lapid has been careful to come across as a benign, even friendly voice in the debates over Synagogue and State. Alas, that hasn’t fooled the frumies.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

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