Get to Know the Yesh Atid Party

Israeli Knesset Building. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock.

The elections in Israel are over and the results are in. The joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu ticket, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, remains the largest party. Ynet is reporting that they won 31 seats, more than a quarter of the Knesset (parliament) seats, while the center-left Yesh Atid party stunned the experts to become the second largest party with 19 seats.

The unexpected surge by Yesh Atid has thrown Israeli politics into confusion and sets the stage for a complicated coalition process. Yesh Atid could work with the Right or the Left, and they could join the coalition or lead the opposition. Here’s a closer look at the party that has stolen the spotlight in Israel:

The new Yesh Atid party (“There is a Future” in Hebrew) led by former journalist Yair Lapid, has repeatedly framed itself as supporting Israel’s middle class. Despite not winning any where close to the most votes, nonetheless in Israel’s diverse political system they may still represent the average political view in Israel—the closest thing to a “centrist” party.  They have risen on the frustrations of the secular middle ground in Israel, a voting bloc that wants cheaper housing and a more equal “sharing of the burden” in society.

According to Ynet, of significant importance is Yesh Atid’s desire to create an essentially universal army draft. For years some in society have either been exempt or more likely to dodge service, and Yesh Atid wants to change things.

Lapid did briefly describe his vision of the Palestinian situation—although unlike most other parties, Yesh Atid does not actually present its plan on its English website. In a report by The Times of Israel, Lapid’s approach insists on renewing peace negotiations with the Palestinians and wants to divide from them. Lapid does want to retain the large settlement blocs in the West Bank.

However, Lapid also wants to keep Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty—a goal more in line with the center-right Likud party than the leftist Labor party. This view on Jerusalem would fit with a large portion, if not a sizable majority, of the Israeli public. It remains to be seen if Lapid’s belief that the Palestinians would eventually accept this is indeed a valid hope or not.

Of all the Left-leaning parties, Yesh Atid is probably the one most capable of joining a mixed government with the Right. However, it’s government reforms that aim to decrease the power of smaller political parties and its pursuit of a universal military draft would probably make it difficult—if not impossible—to serve in the same coalition as the ultra-orthodox parties.

One element of the Yesh Atid government reform program that could force it to join a Likud-led coalition is that they want a new law to mandate that the largest party in the Knesset always be given the right to form the coalition. In this case, that right belongs to Netanyahu by far, and so Yesh Atid may see it necessary to try and make a centrist government work with Netanyahu rather than stick to their more similar leftist allies.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, January 23, 2013)