Lapid Secretly Extends Term as Yesh Atid Leader for Up to 7 More Years

The MK and former finance minister, who founded his party in 2012, will be in charge until end of the next Knesset, which is potentially 2023.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid at a Knesset party meeting, December 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has secretly extended his term as party chairman until the end of the next Knesset – a move that could potentially leave him in place until 2023 if no early elections are called.

The party, which was founded by Lapid ahead of the 2013 election, was supposed to hold its first leadership primary at the end of the current Knesset. Now, however, the race will be postponed for another full Knesset term.

Yesh Atid said the postponement, which was first reported by Raviv Drucker on Channel 10 TV on Thursday night, was decided on by the party’s leadership in January 2015, via the party’s ordinary decision-making procedures.

If this is correct, then Yesh Atid hid the decision from the public and has yet to make any official announcement on the matter. In contrast, other parties are open and transparent about their procedures for choosing the party leader.

Yesh Atid members were surprised by media interest in the decision. Currently, the party has 11 Knesset members, and the other MKs accept Lapid’s authority absolutely; none has ever considered challenging him for the party leadership.

“Yesh Atid is Yair Lapid,” one MK explained recently. “It’s clear to everyone that, in the public’s eyes, the party has no right to exist without Lapid at the helm.”

Following the report Thursday, a party source said, “From our standpoint, there’s nothing new in this. But clearly, the fact it’s being publicized only now, and in this manner, will reinforce Lapid’s image as a dictator who does as he pleases with the party and who will continue to choose its Knesset candidates himself, without consideration for members of the party or the broader public.”

The party’s original bylaws, first revealed to the public in 2012, gave Lapid absolute control of the party. According to those directives, Lapid couldn’t be ousted as party leader during his first two Knesset terms (i.e., until the end of the current Knesset). But that limit has now been extended for another full term.

The bylaws state that the party chairman will decide who to put on Yesh Atid’s Knesset slate, and in what order. He can also choose up to a quarter of the party’s Knesset candidates from among people who aren’t party members.

After the election, the party chairman has sole authority to decide whether or not the party will join the coalition. If it does, he is the one who decides which MKs will serve as Yesh Atid’s ministers and deputy ministers. He is also the one who appoints the party’s executive committee and all its officials, including the spokesman, treasurer, legal adviser and those with signatory powers.

The chairman can submit a proposal to the party organs at any time and it will be discussed at the first opportunity (but within 30 days at the latest). The chairman also serves as head of the executive committee.

Any time there’s a disagreement within the party’s Knesset faction, the chairman is the one who decides, the bylaws state. If the party’s election committee fails to reach a unanimous decision on procedures for elections to Yesh Atid’s central committee, the chairman is again the one who decides. Finally, he decides in any case where the decision isn’t explicitly assigned to one of the party’s institutions.

Yesh Atid members must sign a form agreeing to accept all the party’s bylaws and cannot have been members of any other party in the previous six months. However, in last year’s election Lapid decided to put MK Elazar Stern on Yesh Atid’s Knesset slate, even though Stern had served as an MK for the Hatnuah party right up until the election.