Immediately following the painful beating the Likud had taken in the recent election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at Likud headquarters. He was met there by the disappointed party activists and the bands of cheerleaders who had been hired to create the impression that, in spite of everything, the Likud had the upper hand in the election. Netanyahu delivered a brief speech — exceptional in the Israeli political discourse. He talked about the basic principles of the new government he was going to set up now that he was left with a shrunken and shriveled faction in the Knesset. He alluded in passing to the issue of maintaining Israel’s security, as well as to the need for budgetary discipline in view of the global crisis. And he referred to two other issues which he had avoided for a long time — putting in motion a political process for the achievement of true peace, and the recruitment of ultra-Orthodox rabbinical college students to the army. The second issue, in particular, weighs on the mind of most Israelis, who are sharing the burden of military service, while parts of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community are exempt from service. Neither of these issues were dealt with in the Likud election campaign, whereas both featured prominently in the campaign of Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party [which emerged from the election the second-largest party]. Within hours, Netanyahu adapted himself to the new reality and was already addressing Lapid and his voters.
In the past couple of days, the international community has been trying to decipher the riddle and figure out who Yair Lapid really is. Against the backdrop of the unconcealed joy over the defeat of Netanyahu, Lapid has been hailed as the knight in shining armor, the one who is going to advance the peace process at any cost, and possibly even as an antithesis to the Likud.