Lapid Says Will Stay in Party if Ousted After Challenger Calls for Leadership Race

Yesh Atid chairman says his No. 2, Ofer Shelah, who called for a primary, is a suitable leader, but casts doubt on holding internal election

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Yair Lapid and Ofer Shelah at a Yesh Atid party meeting, January 17, 2016.
Yair Lapid and Ofer Shelah at a Yesh Atid party meeting, January 17, 2016.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Yesh Atid chairman and opposition leader Yair Lapid said Thursday  he will stay in the party even if he is no longer leading it, after second-in-command Ofer Shelah called for a party primary the day before.

Lapid told public broadcaster Kan that Shelah, who intends to run against him in a primary, is capable of leading Yesh Atid. "He's a talented man with values," Lapid said.

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Still, Lapid expressed doubts about holding the internal election, adding, "We're afraid of primaries; they've wiped out parties like Labor and corrupted Likud."

He added: "We're examining this seriously. It will take a few months. I don't want to say how we're doing it yet. We'll do it on an organized timetable …. You don't change a party from day to day."

Shelah announced Wednesday that he had asked Lapid to a hold primary for Yesh Atid's leadership, and that he plans on running.  

“I have presented to Yair Lapid in recent days the urgent need to refresh the face of Yesh Atid, well before the next election,” he wrote on Facebook. “It has to start with an immediate, open primary for the role of party chairman. I will run, and I will be happy if there are others. Without it, we won’t be an alternative and we won’t win.”

Yesh Atid announced last November that it would extend Lapid’s term as party leader through the 25th Knesset, two terms past the current one. This was the third time that Lapid had extended his position as party leader since he founded Yesh Atid in 2012.

The party first ran in the 2013 election for the 19th Knesset, and the party rules at the time guaranteed Lapid his position for two Knesset terms. The party constitution was secretly amended in 2016, when Lapid’s term as leader was extended through the 22nd Knesset – giving him unlimited power with no possibility of ousting him.  The constitution has not been amended since.

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