Yair Lapid celebrated the great success of his Yesh Atid party the day after Tuesday's elections outside his Tel Aviv residence. At 8 p.m., Lapid told reporters that he had no intention of joining left-wing parties to form an obstructive bloc, and that his intentions were primarily focused on internal issues.
"Israei citizens made a sensible choice with a kind of sanity, with hope," Lapid said. "The people were reinvigorated, because they had faith in our ability to work together and make this a better place. I heard what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to say at his press conference, and I was happy to hear that he is talking about all the issues we spoke about this past year: about sharing the burden [of army service with the ultra-Orthodox], about the middle class and the need to bolster it with education and housing reform, and about what is important to the people who live in and love this place."
Lapid addressed his supporters, saying: "I want to thank the thousands of young activists who took to the streets nationwide and committed themselves day and night, putting in long, sleepless hours for something we believe in. Today, we have a better place, and we will continue to struggle to make this an even better place."
Boaz Toporovsky, the former chairman of the National Student Union and No. 18 on Yesh Atid's list, said Wednesday evening that it was his intention to serve as a representative for the nation's youth and students in his upcoming tenure as an MK.
"With such incredible results comes great responsibility," Toporovsky said. "We must do everything to ensure we maintain confidence. We'll make sure that the Knesset and government will report the long-term effects of their decision making, so that the decisions made today will not yield a heavy price we'll have to pay off in the coming decades."
Lapid and his party witnessed an additional surprise this election season: Recent polls indicate that the party garnered some four to five Knesset seats thanks to voters in the Russian-speaking community, with many abandoning their traditional support of Yisrael Beytenu.
Advertising agency PARTIZAN largely stands behind Lapid's success among the nation's Russian-speaking community. Olga Wolfson, who led the agency's campaign, said that young Russian-speakers recognized Yair Lapid, although the older generation was generally unaware of the 49-year-old former journalist turned politician.
"Lapid wrote in the most widely read blog in the Russian community [translated from Hebrew]. We also published many articles that introduced the man and explained his intentions. We released a real, Russian-language newspaper, which we distributed in hostels catering to the older population," Wolfson said. "One of the most important messages to convey to the Russian community was that the [Yesh Atid] party was not Left, but Center."
One of Lapid's most fervent supporters is Andre Zhilov, 33, of Netanya. Zhilov immigrated to Israel from Russia in 1996, and since then has voted consistently for the Yisrael Beytenu Party. In this election, he decided to vote for Yesh Atid, and even became a political activist.
"Yisrael Beytenu nowadays represents a kind of political aggression that doesn't represent me," he said. "What interests me is educational and financial investment, social welfare, infrastructure and housing within the Green Line. Yisrael Beytenu became preoccupied with foreign affairs, and forgot the internal problems we Israelis have."