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Ten post-election, pre-coalition takeaways

Former journalist Yair Lapid, head of Yesh Atid party (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org)

There’s no doubt about it – Yair Lapid is the star of these election results. His 19 mandates will most certainly give him and his party a senior position in the next government, likely to be led by Benjamin Netanyahu. But before you go reporting about the upcoming Bibi-Lapid coalition, here are a few post-election and pre-government thoughts.

1) Those crazy coalition talks

Just as Lapid’s unexpected surge happened in the last week before the vote (most polls gave him around 11-12 a few weeks before), the coalition talks can also take some twisty curves. Just today, the two arch-rivals, Ashkenazi-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism and the Sephardi-Orthodox party Shas, told Netanyahu that they will join forces (18 mandates together) in an effort to form a government without Lapid. The length to which the Orthodox will go to prevent their yeshiva boys from doing the military is astonishing.

2) Lapid’s real test begins

I happen to be one of the many who bashed Lapid over the years for being a man with no vision, no platform. But now that the people have shown they want him around, I figure it’s time to give him a chance and judge him by his actions.

What a shame that his first act was to delegitimize 20 percent of the population with a statement that was borderline racism. Less than 24 hours after the results, Lapid said he would not join forces with the “Haneen Zouabis.” Yeah, those Zouabis, who were voted in “democratically” to that same parliament you are going to be in. The evil, evil Zouabis.

3) The disappearance of the the occupation

What I find most interesting is that these elections, finally, were not about the occupation. I’ve always hoped the security/fear narrative would take second place to the issue of what is in my eyes (I know most of my readers don’t agree with me on this) the biggest evil around the world: corporate capitalism, which is responsible for far more death, destruction and poverty.

Unfortunately, Israelis took it too far. They simply ignored the occupation altogether. According to these results, the occupation is not important at all. Neither is Iran. Nor are relations with the U.S. Nor the Arab Spring.

Nope, the issue most important to Israelis is that a few thousand Haredim aren’t serving in the army.


This is what Lapid wrote on his Facebook wall earlier today:

My principles from last week are the same ones today: Sharing of burden, concern for the middle class on issues such as education and housing, and changing the parliamentary system.

Between the river and the sea, this is the issue that is most pressing according to Lapid. Which is quite understandable. The Zouabis aren’t really of any importance.

The only plus I can see in downplaying the Palestinian/security/fear issue is that it could actually be an opening forward. I’ve always believed that there is a certain advantage to not talking about the issue. When it turns into something less central, it becomes less important. Which in turn means the need to occupy may, eventually, become less important. This is when the option of making a compromise seems more feasible.

Another good thing about these results, is that despite the fear Netanyahu tried to sell throughout the elections – the Israeli public did not seem to buy it. The only thing that bothered them was their own pockets. And those lazy Haredim.

4) The failure to understand J14

In a way, this is the success of the J14 social protests. Many Israelis think Lapid symbolizes those protests, that his surge is a protest vote against the capitalist policies of Netanyahu. But the public failed miserably in this aspect, because cigar-smokin’-Lapid is just as much a capitalist as Bibi is. What the Israeli public failed to see is that Lapid has nothing to do with J14. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. But his campaign did an amazing job in fooling Israelis.

5) Those white colonialists

Lapid is a male, white Ashkenazi, secular Jew. The epitome of the Israeli colonialist.

The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics divides towns in Israel to 10 different socio-economic levels. In 22 of the 30 towns that are in the top three levels, Lapid’s party won. In six of those 30, he came in second  – just slightly behind first place.

For example, in two towns known as the Beverly Hills of Israel, he really excelled. In Savion, Lapid got 34.6 percent, and in Kfar Shmaryahu (where many ambassadors live) he received 31.9 percent.

As my colleague Noam Sheizaf mentioned to me: “The proletariat of Savion has spoken.”

6) Where did Lieberman go?

Everybody is talking about Lapid, but nobody seems to be talking about Avigdor Lieberman. Why, up to just a few months ago everyone on the left, including us here at +972, made him king of the country, especially after the unification of Yisrael Beiteinu with Likud. He was supposed to take over Bibi! But in no time at all, legal troubles caught up with him and then Lapid came and stole the show. Netanyahu isn’t the only one who took a fall – Lieberman is hurting too. We’ll just have to see if this duo continues together. Lieberman could always jump ship, and leave Bibi with 20 mandates. Not exactly a situation Bibi would feel comfortable in.

7) Responsibility, Labor style

Even more difficult to fathom is the amazing failure of Shelly Yachimovich. If I had a dollar for every time I read a headline that said she “brought labor back from the dead”, I’d be a rich man. In the end, she got two more seats than Ehud Barak’s all time low of 13. She had 28 mandates of the disappearing Kadima to gather, the whole social protest narrative at her feet – and that’s all she got. 15 mandates.

Thank god we’re not a normal country. She would have had to take responsibility and resign!

8) King Bibi needs a kingmaker

Remember when Time magazine called Netanyahu “King Bibi?” Now I see all the foreign media is calling Lapid the “kingmaker.” So, how’s that going to work?

9) Likud fails on home turf?

As we all know, after the primaries Likud took a sharp right. All the settler members of the party put ahead some pretty extreme MK’s.

But on national election day, they turned their backs on Likud. The ruling party only managed to scrape one mandate from its buddies in the West Bank. 31 thousand votes (27.3 percent of votes in the settlements).

9) The party poopers. I mean, papers.

The success of Lapid is also the victory of his former boss, Noni Mozes, the owner of Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper. Ever since Sheldon Adelson started giving out his Netanyahu freebie, Yisrael Hayom, Yedioth has taken a huge hit in its numbers and is no longer number one.

Now, Noni has his man in an amazing position. Lapid, who kept on writing for Yedioth as its most popular columnist even after he announced he’s going into politics, will most surely be Yedioth’s pride and glory in this Knesset.

It’s almost as if Israel is going back in time, when there were official party papers like Davar (Labor and Histadrut), Al Hamishmar (Mapam), Hatsofe (Mafdal) and more. Today it’s Yisrael Hayom (Likud) and Yedioth (Yesh Atid). Unofficially, of course.

10) Drama and laughs on TV night

Everyone is talking about how the Channel 2 anchorwoman Yonit Levi “let her hair down” and stopped being so frozen. She actually laughed during the whole evening. I admit, she did a good job.

Even more interesting was a television moment that will go down in history, when all channels were stuck with the dilemma of which victory speech to show, as both Netanyahu and Lapid took the mic as the exact same time!

Lapid (left) and Bibi (right). photo: Ami Kaufman

11) A few videos

And here are a few videos in English with Lapid, just in case:

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    1. Danny

      Good observations. I would add the following:
      1. Yair Lapid is probably the emptiest vessel to be elected into office since George W. Bush. Aside from his carefully cultivated macho persona, fake and recycled intellectual hogwash (did you know he’s a published author?) and his late father’s considerable establishment connections, he is a complete and utter KLUMNIK. I once tried reading one of his newspaper columns – I stopped after the first paragraph.
      2. Naftali Bennet is probably the biggest loser of the elections. Not because he did badly at the ballot box, but because he talked his way out of the coalition. If there’s one thing that Bibi fears more than Iran, it is Sarah. Ya don’t diss the boss’ wife – especially when she is the REAL boss.

      Reply to Comment
    2. ayla

      ‘omhashem” is really funny.

      Reply to Comment
    3. aristeides

      Where’s Lieberman? Back in the FM job, if he gets what he wants. Although apparently Yahoo already offered it to Lapid.

      I think the most fun would come if Lapid decides to take Interior.

      But the real question is, which issue is Lapid going to sell out? Will it be the occupation or the haredim? My guess is, he’ll let the occupation issue go and hold out for the haredi issue, meaning a partnership with Bennett, not Shas.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Cort Greene

      It is Funny. Stewart was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz in New York City, to a Jewish family

      Jon Stewart of the Daily Show comments on this week’s Israel election. The takeaway? If being critical of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is “anti-Semitic,” then half of Israel turns out to be anti-Semitic. Netanyahu’s Likud/ Yisrael Beitenu party combo did very poorly


      Reply to Comment
    5. “the two arch-rivals, Ashkenazi-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism and the Sephardi-Orthodox party Shas, told Netanyahu that they will join forces (18 mandates together) in an effort to form a government without Lapid. The length to which the Orthodox will go to prevent their yeshiva boys from doing the military is astonishing.”

      So this the fundamental internal cleavage, which ties into the occupation over settlements, which has become a social cash cow for the Orthodox. Beyond the issue of service lies the demographic threat of welfare for the religous. I believe it is commonly noted among sociologists and such that an unemployable class is being constructed.

      Israel will not move internally at first on the occupation, but it may do so somewhat as attachment to the welfare/service issue (eventually).

      Lapid may have nothing to do with J14, but I recall the overall polled support for J14 (back then) was quite high. I continue to believe that Bibi et als response to J14 helped dislodge a portion of the electorate from standard party labels. Which Lapid may have attracted higher society votes, this may be through image and lack of perceived alternative. Lapid became a de facto indicator of this shifting electorate, which seems to have turned out at high rate.

      “It’s almost as if Israel is going back in time, when there were official party papers…” : The strongest sense I have of Israel’s internal electoral politics since observing through 972 is that parties are formed top down, with the electorate sheep to be hearded into the voting booth. While much is made of the dismantling of the Labor State, elite demand for conformity remains. J14 measured a kind of passive anger against this, and I think Lapid’s happenstance showing indicates that anger is still present.

      Reply to Comment
    6. sh

      “the two arch-rivals, Ashkenazi-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism and the Sephardi-Orthodox party Shas, told Netanyahu that they will join forces (18 mandates together) in an effort to form a government without Lapid. The length to which the Orthodox will go to prevent their yeshiva boys from doing the military is astonishing.”

      Not really, it seems natural. At base they aren’t arch-rivals at all. Didn’t Rabbi Elazar Shach (founder of Degel HaTorah) and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef co-found Shas? With Agudat Yisrael, all three have quarreled, split up and merged again over the years but there’s more that connects them than separates them.

      Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett seem to get on well together. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/west-bank-settlements-seek-to-revolutionize-image-with-a-new-kind-of-tour-1.313302
      Will Bibi really take the Haredi parties instead of Lapid and therefore Bennett? I think he’s in for a rough time.

      Reply to Comment