Last night, Susan and I went to a Yesh Atid (There is a Future) meeting (Anglo Division) in Tel Aviv to hear the party leader, Yair Lapid. He was introduced as the next Prime Minister of Israel which is – to put it mildly – somewhat optimistic. However, let there be no doubt, he is by far my preferred candidate. Why? Partly because I like the man, but mainly because I like how Yesh Atid handled itself the last time it was in power – sticking largely to its policy promises – and also, no less, because of the party’s policies. Their intentions for the country address all the key areas in the right way, so to speak. I was particularly pleased to hear Yair promise that one early law, were he successful, would be to limit the number of times one person could be the Prime Minister to twice. (Hello Bibi!)
Underpinning a lot of Yesh Atid’s policies is an honest streak that seems to be missing from the other parties. For example, when in power, Yesh Atid refused to take the money that all the other coalition parties took from the State, just for being in power. Shocking. For another example, within minutes of the election being called, the coalition parties robbed the welfare and education budgets to fund their own political expenditure. Also shocking. Another almost unbelievable story was the reminder that Bibi ordered a personal – OK, a Prime Ministerial – plane at a cost of hundreds of millions of shekels, for no good reason. (The theory is that Bibi felt envious at Air Force One…) A funny story was told about the ministerial vote on work programs. Only two ministers voted against it. Guess which two ministers were appointed to be in charge of the work programs? Welcome to Israel…
Before Yair could start, he was interrupted by a protester – demonstrating against weapons sales to Sudan – who had to be removed by the security team. It’s unclear why the protester targeted Yair Lapid, as the offending matters were not of his creation. Anyway, Yair spoke for about 45 minutes – in reasonably good English – and then took questions.
The questions ranged from aliyah to illegal immigrants to non-orthodoxy to gay rights to educations, pensions, and so on. His answers were OK, but the poor guy has clearly been running around with far too much to do. I say this because his English in the answers was not as sharp or polished as it can be. He had not had enough time to prepare fully, I suspect. In this arena, he is not as good a performer as Bibi. But, he will improve, and it’s one area that – despite declarations to the contrary – matters least in the Israeli elections. In other words, the Anglos will not have a material effect on the result. That having been said, I was impressed and cheered by the very young profile of the audience. Very heartening. Anyway, for election success, it’s more important how he comes across in the Hebrew media. And there he is very much equal to the Bibi challenge.
What are his chances? In the past elections, Yesh Atid has typically done less well in the polls until the closing stages. That appears to be the case this time around, too. But it needs to do much better this time to break the Likud stranglehold, and so far there’s been no hint of such a change. Instead, the opposition keeps getting split by new parties popping up. So, when it does come to the election, Lapid as Prime Minister is unlikely. But, then again, in the world of Israeli politics, almost anything is possible. After all, this is a country where a new politician could be ranked as getting 20% plus of the vote before making a single speech or uttering a single word on policy or beliefs. So, unlikely, but not impossible.
I’m resigned to another Bibi/Likud victory, but let’s see what actually happens.