Lapid Courts Their Voters, and Israeli Left-wing Parties Fear Election 'Catastrophe'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid, last week in Jerusalem.
Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid, last week in Jerusalem.Credit: GIL COHEN-MAGEN - AFP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A text message that Yair Lapid sent to potential supporters on Sunday outraged other center-left parties, which fear it’s the start of a campaign that could drive them beneath the electoral threshold.

“Parties with five seats won’t replace the government, and parties with six seats won’t save democracy,” his Yesh Atid party wrote in his name. “Big changes will be made only with a big Yesh Atid.”

West Bank, Gaza Palestinians won't be voting in Israel's election - would they if they could?

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The message was aimed at all the smaller center-left parties, but particularly at Kahol Lavan. It explicitly urged that party’s supporters vote Yesh Atid by saying that “anyone who participated in this bloated, wasteful government” enabled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stay in power.

Labor and Meretz are also teetering on the electoral threshold, so a major drive by Lapid to woo their voters could leave all three parties out of the next Knesset.

Yesh Atid confirmed that it was behind the text message, but insisted that this wasn’t part of a major campaign to draw voters away from other parties in the center-left bloc. Rather, it said, the goal was to convince undecided voters to support Yesh Atid.

Kahol Lavan, Labor and Meretz all responded furiously to the text.

“At a time when Netanyahu is fighting for Ben-Gvir to cross the electoral threshold to strengthen his bloc, Lapid is working to end up without a bloc,” Labor said, referring to Itamar Ben-Gvir of the far—right Religious Zionism joint ticket. One Labor source added, “If Lapid wants war, he’ll get it.”

"If Lapid wants war, he’ll get it," one Labor party source saidCredit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Labor officials said that if Lapid doesn’t shelve this campaign, they intend to launch a previously prepared campaign about Lapid’s flip-flops over the years.

“The framing of these videos, some of which are familiar and some not, will hurt Lapid and his party,” one said. “We urge him to act responsibly and put what’s good for the bloc over what’s good for him personally.

“If he wants to grow, he should look rightward and bring seats from Bennett and Sa’ar, not at the expense of our bloc,” this official added, referring to Yamina Chairperson Naftali Bennett and New Hope Chairperson Gideon Sa’ar.

Kahol Lavan also blasted the text message. “It’s clear to Lapid that none of the parties in the leftist bloc will quit before the election,” one party source said. “We're talking about three parties, each of which has six seats at most. Therefore, anything he does to draw seats away from them endangers hundreds of thousands of votes for the bloc.

“This is a catastrophic move,” the source continued, adding that when Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz “did something similar in the last election, we made sure to stop the campaign when the other parties hit six seats so as not to endanger the bloc.”

A senior Meretz official warned that Yesh Atid’s campaign could leave it below the electoral threshold, adding, “Lapid knows that if there’s no Meretz in the next Knesset, Netanyahu will have the 61 seats he needs to form a government. And without Meretz, the anti-Netanyahu bloc lacks the 61 seats needed to form a coalition.”

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