Unveiling Yesh Atid’s roster, Lapid slams Netanyahu for Haredi education deal

Yesh Atid announced its candidate roster on Tuesday, bringing back many of its 26 sitting lawmakers, ministers and deputy ministers to realistic spots on the slate of the party currently polling at around 23 seats in November’s election.

Party newcomers in realistic positions are Michal Shir — who resigned her Knesset seat to leave New Hope and run with Yesh Atid — in the 13th spot, Yoav Regional Council head Matti Sarfatti Harcavi in the 18th, and lawyer Debbie Biton in the 21st.

The party failed to add any prominent public figures after former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot passed on Yesh Atid in favor of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s National Unity party.

With its three new faces, the list places nine women in realistic positions, slightly above the party’s current eight female lawmakers and ministers, bringing the projected total of female lawmakers in the 25th Knesset to 30.

This number is likely to shift with final vote tallies and the opportunity to swap in new, downlist lawmakers for appointed ministers by applying the so-called Norwegian Law. However, it’s lower than the current 36 female MKs and 9 ministers, and has sparked a public debate about female representation heading into November.

Behind party leader Yair Lapid in the top spot are ministers Orna Barbivai, Meir Cohen, Karin Elharrar, Meirav Cohen, Yoel Razvozov, and Elazar Stern in the first seven seats.

Prime Minister and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid is flanked by his party’s female lawmakers and ministers during an election campaign event in Tel Aviv, September 8, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy is in the eighth, followed by Public Security Committee head Merav Ben Ari, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chair Ram Ben Barak, Deputy Public Security Minister Yoav Segalovitz, and coalition whip and faction chair Boaz Toporovsky in the 12th spot.

Further down the list in the 29th spot is newcomer Mohammed Elhega, a Muslim activist who runs the party’s outreach to Arab voters.

Although Lapid presented his list as that of “a ruling party,” polls consistently indicate that the caretaker prime minister will have trouble securing a 61-seat Knesset majority to establish a new government this fall.

A Yesh Atid Tel Aviv campaign event, presenting the party’s list for the upcoming elections, September 13, 2022. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

His chief rival, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, struck a deal this week to shore up his own bloc by mending a rift in the Ashkenazi Haredi alliance United Torah Judaism.

To broker the deal, Netanyahu promised to fund Haredi schools without requiring them to bend to the Education Ministry’s demand to implement a core curriculum. Lapid slammed the move, saying that not enforcing the core curriculum trades Haredi children’s future employment opportunities for political expediency.

Prime Minister and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid speaks during an election campaign event in Tel Aviv, September 8, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

“We need to make sure that every child in Israel learns math and English and Hebrew. Core studies are the future of this country. There is a historic opportunity here to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into the labor market. Netanyahu’s attempt to sell our children’s future for a political deal is irresponsible. He won’t take us back, we’ll stop him,” Lapid said at his Tuesday campaign event.

Likud quickly responded that “no harm to core studies” will happen, arguing that the deal will maintain the status quo by which “those who study core curriculum will continue to learn the core curriculum.”

About 60% of Haredi children do not study the full core curriculum as part of their basic education in Israel, with some schools teaching as little as half of the core subjects.

Lapid and Netanyahu have also sparred over how to handle a potential American return to a nuclear agreement with Iran — intended to prevent the Islamic fundamentalist regime’s attainment of a nuclear weapon. Israel believes it is insufficient to prevent Tehran’s malign activities and will free up frozen funds that Iran could use to further bolster its proxies in the region.

Amid reports that efforts to revive the deal are once again on ice, Lapid said his behind-the-scenes approach bore fruit.

“We succeeded — at least in the close term, I say this cautiously — to block the nuclear agreement with Iran because we joined forces and worked quietly and made sure that everyone was coordinated,” Lapid said.

Netanyahu has in the past taken an opposite tactic, choosing instead to wage the war of American public opinion. Some of his more forceful efforts — including directly addressing the US Congress in 2015 — precipitated a fallout in US-Israel relations and failed to prevent that year’s signing of the accord.


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