Following a number of political maneuvers suggesting insiders see the possibility of elections on the horizon, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said Thursday that if he were tasked with forming a coalition he would reach out to both left- and right-wing parties in an effort to form a national unity government.
Responding to claims that he had “moved right” in an attempt to reach out to a new voter base, Lapid told Army Radio that he was not easily defined in the traditional sense of the political map. “I am neither right nor left, I’m a man of the center,” he said.
Entertaining the possibility that his Yesh Atid party could win more seats than any other party in the Knesset, Lapid said that being a centrist politician would help him reach out to both sides of the aisle.
“I will try to form a national unity government with the Likud and Labor parties if I win the elections,” he said.
In recent months, Yesh Atid has been rising in opinion polls, consistently coming out ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing Likud party.
While the party has targeted voters on both sides of the political spectrum, Yesh Atid’s surge is seen to come largely at the expense of the left-leaning Zionist Union, which polls predict would bleed over half of its supporters to Lapid’s party.
With Likud lawmakers beginning to talk about the political landscape “post-Netanyahu” and Labor gearing up for a bitter leadership battle, on Tuesday Lapid announced that seven regional council heads from across the country were joining his party.
“They are coming to us from the Likud, Labor and independent lists. From the deep south to the distant north… These are people who have come to work,” Lapid said, stressing that the new additions would help the party focus on issues relating to the country’s rural areas.
Golan Regional Council chair Eli Malka, arguable the most prominent of the seven recruits, said that joining Yesh Atid would be beneficial to the rural communities represented by the council heads.
“We decided together that we will join a political force and we came to the conclusion that the most natural and appropriate place to be is Yesh Atid,” said Malka, a longtime member of the Likud party.
Speaking to The Times of Israel after the press conference where the move was announced, Sigal Moran, head of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, said that she had long been a member of the Labor Party — the dominant faction within the Zionist Union — but felt that Yesh Atid “best spoke the language” of rural Israel.
A general election is theoretically years away, tentatively slated for spring 2019, but with Netanyahu under investigation for a raft of scandals, some analysts believe it may come sooner than planned.
On Wednesday Education Minister Naftali Bennett requested that primaries for his Jewish Home party be moved up, with a party source saying they were likely to take place in a few weeks.
Formed by Lapid in 2012, the Yesh Atid party stormed to a surprising 19-seat success in the 2013 elections, becoming the second-largest party and joining Likud in the coalition. In the 2015 elections the party slid to the 11 seats it currently holds in the Knesset, where it sits in the opposition.
Despite his party’s initial focus on domestic concerns, Lapid has used his time as a lawmaker to fashion himself as something of a shadow foreign minister, with the role of top diplomat currently held by Netanyahu himself.