Nobody Can Figure It Out: Yesh Atid's Enigmatic Climb in the Polls

Zionist Union's Isaac Herzog and Kulanu's Moshe Kahlon could take some campaign tips from Yair Lapid.

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid at a campaign event for senior citizens in Netanya, January 22, 2015.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid at a campaign event for senior citizens in Netanya, January 22, 2015. Credit: David Bachar
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

Officials in Yesh Atid love to say that pollsters can’t figure them out. They have a point: No one predicted before the last election that the party would win anywhere near 19 Knesset seats.

It’s not doing so badly now, either. It began the election season with forecasts of eight or nine seats, and most of the polls conducted last week gave it 10 or 12. It could go higher still, but let’s be real: For Yesh Atid to win 12 seats in 2015 would be no less impressive, and possibly even more, than the 19 it got in 2013.

Yesh Atid was supposed to crash and burn this time, after it ostensibly made a mockery of itself and its voters ever since they gave it the very generous credit of 19 seats. Party founder and leader Yair Lapid forged a blood pact with the extreme-right Habayit Hayehudi, and forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to include them both in his coalition.

As soon as the government was formed, Lapid broke his promises to the middle class on taxation and the budget, and humiliated himself in a series of farces as finance minister (the appointment of the Bank of Israel governor, the company to build rental housing, the plan to eliminate value added tax on the purchase of some new homes). Six Knesset seats looked to be a fair forecast, but the party just keeps climbing in the polls. What gives?

In one word: campaign. In two words: no campaign. The campaign is Yesh Atid’s. The no campaign is that of Zionist Union and Kulanu. Yesh Atid is nibbling away at their voter bases. Actually, more like ripping into both parties with its fangs, and as we said, there’s no guessing how far it will go. Lapid is a great campaigner. Isaac Herzog and Moshe Kahlon could take correspondence courses from him and his campaign staffers. Lapid deserves the props for this, he took on the burdens of a beaten, humiliated party with no record to point to — and charged up the pollsters’ charts with it.

It was Netanyahu who did the first, and possibly most important, favor for Lapid. As soon as he fired Lapid, the former finance minister turned into a fierce opposition player. In politics, no one, certainly not Lapid, cares that it happened overnight, and until it did his aides excelled at explaining why it was so important for him to remain in Netanyahu’s government.

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