Pretty much the entire political universe seemed taken by surprise by Yair Lapid’s stong showing in last week’s Israeli elections, when his Yesh Atid party took 19 seats.
But if you go back and look at JTA’s coverage of Lapid’s entry into politics a year ago, the script pretty much followed as expected. Here’s how our Jan. 17, 2012 story by Linda Gradstein began:
JERUSALEM (JTA) — One of the big open questions after Israel’s social protests last summer was whether or not the one-time mass movement would be able to translate its newfound clout into lasting political power.
During the weeks of protests and for months afterward, none of Israel’s political parties seemed able to capture the demonstrators’ voice or allegiances.
But that could change with the entry into politics of one of Israel’s most popular journalists and TV personalities, Yair Lapid, son of the late Shinui Party leader Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, who also was a journalist.
Polls show that the younger Lapid, who is expected to form a new centrist secular political party, could receive up to 20 seats in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset, making him a potent political force….
Lapid’s political gambit constitutes an assault on Israel’s politically powerful haredi Orthodox minority at a time of heightened tensions between secular and haredi Israelis. In his column, Lapid had harsh words for haredim, few of whom serve in the army but many of whom are recipients of government largesse…
In any case, Lapid’s run could dramatically change the Israeli political game, some analysts say.
“This is potentially an explosive transformation,” said Rabbi Uri Regev, the director of Hiddush, an organization that promotes religious freedom in Israel.
A poll conducted by Hiddush found that 43 percent of the general Israeli public and 55 percent of the secular public welcomes Lapid’s entry into politics. One-third of the respondents said they would seriously consider voting for Lapid whether he forms a new party or joins an established one.
“This may be the beginning of the end of the dominion of the haredi parties,” Regev said.
But other analysts said Lapid simply will split the center and left-wing vote even further because he will be unable to make inroads into the right-religious bloc headed by Netanyahu.