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Yesh Atid Party: History & Overview

Yesh Atid (“there is a future” in Hebrew) is a centrist Israeli political party founded by Yair Lapid in 2012.

Lapid, well-known in Israel for his 31-year career as a journalist and for being the son of outspoken former politician Tommy Lapid, announced in January 2012 that he would be quitting journalism to form and lead a new political party. In April, Lapid formally registered the name “Yesh Atid” and announced the party’s official platform.

Yesh Atid portrays itself as a centrist political party with the slogan. “We believe that Israel is a democratic, Jewish state in the spirit of the visions of the prophets of Israel.”

In the 2013 parliamentary election, Yesh Atid garnered 14.19% of the vote, placing second and winning 19 seats in the Knesset.

Lapid emerged as a serious candidate for leading the nation during the 2013 election when he ran on a platform to improve Israelis' economy and quality of life. As Finance Minister, however, he was forced to make difficult choices that were unpopular with much of the electorate and failed to deliver the type of economic reforms that his supporters expected. Some analysts believe that Netanyahu cleverly appointed Lapid to the ministry, knowing that it would be impossible for him to implement the reforms his constituents demanded, thereby reducing the likelihood that Lapid could challenge his leadership in the future.

After coming from nowhere to win 19 seats in the Knesset during the 2013 election, polls forecasted that Yesh Atid could win fewer than 10 in 2015. As the final election results came in, the Yesh Atid party came in fourth place, receiving 12 seats in the 20th Knesset. Lapid spoke at a post-election rally and stated, "Tonight’s results are proof that Yesh Atid is here to stay.”

Yesh Atid became the first Israeli political party to form an “Anglo women’s division” on February 29, 2016, to attract new voters. The Anglo women’s division will focus on women’s issues and female representation in government.

Lapid has said the party has eight main goals:

1.         Changing the priorities in Israel, with an emphasis on civil life – education, housing, health, transport, and policing, as well as improving the condition of the middle class.

2.         Changing the system of government.

3.         Equality in education and the draft—all Israeli school students must be taught essential classes, all Israelis will be drafted into the Army, and all Israeli citizens will be encouraged to seek work, including the ultra-Orthodox sector and the Arab sector.

4.         Fighting political 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 of Justice.

5.         Growth and economic efficiency—creating growth engines as a way of fighting poverty, combating red tape, removing barriers, improving the transportation system, reducing living and housing costs, and improving social mobility through assistance to small businesses.

6.         Legislation of Education Law in cooperation with teachers’ unions, eliminating most of the matriculation exams, raising the differential education index, and increasing school autonomy.

7.         Enact a constitution to regulate tense relations between population groups in Israel.

8.         Striving for peace according to an outline of “two states for two peoples” while maintaining the large Israeli settlement blocs and ensuring the safety of Israel.

Yesh Atid is also in favor of:

•          Creating greater religious pluralism, diversity, and equality between Jews and all movements of Judaism within Israel by instituting public funding by the state for the non-Orthodox movements within Judaism, such as the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Humanistic movements, similar to the public financing of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate by the state.

•          Allowing non-Orthodox movements to perform religious conversions and weddings and have their conversions and marriages accepted as legitimate by the state.

•          Allowing egalitarian prayer between men and women and all Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jewish religious movements at the Western Wall.

•          Instituting civil marriage in Israel, including between same-sex couples.

•          Partial operation of public transportation on Saturdays.

•          Renewing peace negotiations with the Palestinians and halting construction in Israeli settlements.

To strengthen the chance of defeating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Lapid and Benny Gantz, leader of the Israel Resilience Party, agreed to join forces just two months before the April 9, 2019, election. Citing their “national responsibility,” the two leaders said they would run on a joint ticket called “Blue and White” (Kahol Lavan) — the colors of the Israeli flag.  Kahol Lavan won 35 seats, the same as the Likud, but narrowly lost the popular vote. A government could not be formed, and a new election was called for September.

In the September 17, 2019, election, Kahol Lavon won the popular vote and more seats (33-32). Again, a coalition could not be formed, and another election was held in March 2020. The Likud won 36 seats to Kahol Lavan’s 33. Lapid refused to join a coalition with Netanyahu but Gantz, reversing his refusal to sit with Netanyahu, agreed to form a “national emergency government.” That government lasted only 30 days, forcing another election.

Yesh Atid ran independently in the March 23, 2021, election and came in second, winning 17 seats to the Likud’s 30. Lapid was nevertheless given the mandate to form a government because he appeared to have a better chance of forming a government with anti-Netanyahu parties. Naftali Bennett, leader of Yamina, agreed to join a coalition with Lapid and six other parties, including the Islamist Ra’am Party. According to the agreement, Bennett would serve as prime minister for the first two years and Lapid for the second two. 

The government collapsed after just over one year. A new election was scheduled for November 1, 2022. As per the coalition agreement, Lapid became the prime minister until a new government could be formed. 

Sources: Gil Hoffman, “Yesh Atid forms Anglo women’s division,” Jerusalem Post (February 29, 2016).
“Netanyahu’s Likud Party Sweeps to Election Victory.” USA Today, (March 18, 2015).
Alona Ferber, “The scandal-to-scandal (to scandal) guide to the Israeli election, 2015,” Haaretz, (February 5, 2015).
Israel Diplomatic Network, “Parties competing in the 2013 Elections,” Consulate General of Israel in Montreal, (January 3, 2013).
Michael Koplow, “No, Israel Did Not Just Vote for the Center,” Foreign Affairs, (January 23, 2013).
Roger Cohen, “The Israeli Center Lives,” New York Times, (January 23, 2013).
Yesh Atid English website (English; Hebrew).
Yossi Klein Halevi, “Why I Voted for Yair Lapid,” Tablet Magazine, (January 23, 2013).
Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash, “Netanyahu’s election rivals merge as Israeli leader makes pact with extreme right,” Washington Post, (February 21, 2019).
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Aaron Boxerman, “History made as Arab Israeli Ra’am party joins Bennett-Lapid coalition,” Times of Israel, (June 3, 2021).
Abigail Klein Leichman, “9 firsts you should know about Israel’s new government,” Israel21c, (June 14, 2021).
Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kershner, “Israel’s Government in Crisis After Senior Lawmaker Quits Coalition,” New York Times, (April 6, 2022).
Patrick Kingsley, “Israel’s Government Collapses, Setting Up 5th Election in 3 Years,” New York Times, (June 20, 2022).
Michael Hauser Tov, “PM Bennett Announces He Will Not Run in Israel's Next Election,” Haaretz, (June 29, 2022).
Jonathan Lis, Josh Breiner, and Yossi Verter, “Right-wing Party Ditches Kahanists to Join Broad Union as Israeli Parties Submit Final Rosters,” Haaretz, (January 15, 2020).
“Yesh Atid,” Wikipedia.