In first, Yesh Atid to hold leadership election; MK Ram Ben Barak to challenge Lapid

Primaries during party convention in December will require candidates to have not been charged with crimes carrying moral turpitude, in reference to PM

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid introduces Ram Ben Barak (L) as a new party member during a faction meeting at the Knesset on January 15, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid introduces Ram Ben Barak (L) as a new party member during a faction meeting at the Knesset on January 15, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party announced Monday that elections for the party’s leadership will be held in December, for the first time in its history.

The party had intended to hold leadership elections last year, but those were canceled when Lapid, Yesh Atid’s leader since its founding in 2012, ran unopposed.

The former prime minister will face off against at least one challenger, Yesh Atid lawmaker Ram Ben Barak, who declared his candidacy shortly after the primaries were announced.

“I commend the decision of party chairman MK Yair Lapid to hold elections for the position of party chairman,” Ben Barak said in a statement. “I notified the party’s election committee this evening that I intend to submit my candidacy for the position. According to the election rules, one is required to obtain 75 signatures from members of the party convention, and I intend to do so.”

The Knesset member had said on multiple occasions since last year’s general elections, in which Lapid and his diverse coalition lost power to Benjamin Netanyahu. that he intended to challenge Lapid’s chairmanship if primaries were held.

Ben Barak served in the previous Knesset as chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Prior to entering politics in 2019, he was deputy head of the Mossad.

In the announcement, Yesh Atid said that the elections would be held during the upcoming party convention, and that convention members may submit their candidacy if they fulfill the following criteria: they are legally eligible to serve as prime minister; they have been party members continuously for at least the last three years; and they have not been charged with a crime of moral turpitude.

Israeli law does not allow citizens who have been charged with crimes of moral turpitude to serve as ministers — with the exception of the prime minister.

The stipulation appeared to be in part a jab at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has continued to lead his Likud party, and the country, as he faces serious charges of bribery and breach of trust in an ongoing corruption trial.

Founded in 2012, Yesh Atid considers itself to be a centrist, liberal and Zionist party. In 2021, the party had the most seats (17) in the coalition that stopped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s continuous 12-year reign.

Since its founding, the party has garnered criticism for its lack of elections both for party leadership and its Knesset slate as Lapid has always chosen the list himself.

No vote has been set for the party slate at this stage (though parties tend to hold such elections only when a national poll is on the horizon).

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