Former journalist and television persona Yair Lapid is set to establish a new political party soon called Atid ('Future'), putting an end to weeks of speculation that he might use another defunct party's existing infrastructure.
Lapid's decision to run independently and form his own party comes as part of his bid to strengthen the perception that he represents a new kind of politician seeking to depart from traditional politics. The decision also has campaign finance implications, since Israeli law allows newly formed parties that have never won Knesset seats to spend up to only NIS 13.5 million ($3.6 million) on their campaigns.
Ahead of his decision, political analysts predicted Lapid might prefer to have an existing, yet inactive, party represent him on the ballot in light of the campaign finance laws. One such party could have been the "Arrow" ("Hetz") party created by former Interior Minister Avraham Poraz. Arrow splintered from Shinui, created by Lapid's father Tommy Lapid, and did not pass the election threshold in the 2006 elections. Lapid could also have run on the Shinui ticket, but decided against this, most likely because of the antagonism this would have generated among ultra-Orthodox voters who have viewed the party as staunchly anti-haredi.
Analysts had also long speculated Lapid would enter politics, but his decision several months ago to step down from his lucrative position as the anchor of Channel 2’s Friday night magazine -- a television ratings juggernaut -- caught many by surprise. The move apparently came in an attempt to pre-empt Knesset legislation that coalition members had been pushing, which would have made it more difficult for journalists to enter the political fray. The so-called Lapid Bill would have mandated a six-month cooling-off period for anyone who crosses the lines from the media to politics. Lapid's latest decision comes just several weeks after lawmakers introduced another piece of legislation aimed at forcing him to release information on his campaign war chest. The so-called Lapid 2 bill stipulates that any candidate for public office must disclose all contributions above a certain threshold and deposit them in a dedicated bank account unless he or she forms an official party.
Israeli law stipulates that a candidate who registers a new party with the Party Registrar must hold an event to inaugurate it shortly thereafter. Also, when filing the papers, Lapid would have to submit a list of 100 supporters and a charter that governs party mechanisms.
While Lapid enjoyed some momentum immediately following his announcement in January, his unorthodox social-media campaign and his fumbled response to claims that he was granted preferential treatment in his academic studies let some of that traction slip away.
A week after declaring his candidacy, Lapid wrote in his weekly column in Yedioth Ahronoth that he sought to represent the Israeli middle class. He said all Israelis should ask themselves, “Where’s the money?” He was referring to what he considers Israel’s distorted budgetary priorities that are biased against the working class, and cited government stipends to haredim as well as the allegedly disproportionate funds received by communities in Judea and Samaria.
Sources close to Lapid told Israel Hayom that despite the financial disadvantage, Lapid's decision to go it alone has been motivated by a desire to project an image of new, clean politics.
Lapid’s move from journalism into politics mirrors that of his late father, Tommy Lapid, a newspaper columnist and TV personality who started his own party and went on to become justice minister. Tommy Lapid’s secular, Zionist Shinui party drew support mostly for its biting criticism of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious establishment.