Yair Lapid

Israel needs a strong center

These elections are about one major question – can life here be better? The answer is yes

The polls open in less than 24 hours and there is a sense of change in the air. The Israeli public knows that our country needs a government which will recapture the spirit of Zionism which existed during Israel’s founding days. We need a state in which we break down barriers and work together with a passion to address the core issues which define us as a state – core Jewish values such as helping the most vulnerable in society, well-rounded and strong education, a world class health care system, tolerance, unity, and more.

Yesh Atid was founded to drive that change and a strong Yesh Atid will continue to lead that change. We are secular, religious Zionist, and haredi, we are immigrants from all over the world and native Israelis, we are the middle class and the most vulnerable in society, we are from the center and from the periphery, we are straight and gay. We are driven by our shared beliefs. We believe in the State of Israel and we believe that between hope and despair we should always choose hope.

A few weeks ago, during an interview, I was asked for my favorite prayer. The Hineni prayer by the leader of the service before Musaf on Rosh Hashanah came to mind immediately because it’s a reminder that those who work on behalf of the public don’t work for themselves.

“Here I am impoverished of deeds, trembling and frightened, from the dread of Him Who is enthroned upon the praises of Israel. I have come to stand and supplicate before Your people Israel who have sent me.”

It’s not their job, it’s not to earn money, it’s not their seat, and it’s not for their honor. It’s about serving the people. Period.

And here is my election promise to you. Vote for Yesh Atid and you are voting for public servants who will serve you and work for you every minute of every day, just as we did during this past term in Knesset. We’ll be the first ones at work in the morning and the last ones to go home at night because you deserve nothing less and this country deserves nothing less.

What you have seen from us over the past few months hasn’t been a campaign, it’s been a fight for the character of the State of Israel. You’ve seen a campaign that has been unswerving – focusing on what we did and what we will do.

So what did we do? We delivered the equality in national service bill, a government reduced to 18 ministers, abolishing “Ministers without Portfolio,” free medication for Holocaust survivors, support for small businesses, summer school programs, the matriculation exam reforms, assistance for the elderly, better emergency rooms and MRI machines in the periphery, progress on women’s and gay rights and more. All in a year and eight months.

Now imagine what we would have done if Netanyahu hadn’t brought down the government. We would have lifted 190,000 senior citizens above the poverty line, started the rehabilitation of the health care system with an injection of four billion shekels, restored the education system to its rightful place in the top ten education systems in the world and more. It was all in the 2015 budget that we prepared and is sitting on the Knesset table waiting for passage. We have a 273 page platform including that budget and a comprehensive battle against government corruption that is our plan for the State of Israel. The day after the elections we’ll fight for all of that, and with your support we’ll make it happen.

Israel needs a strong center that will protect the middle class and the most vulnerable in society. Israel needs a strong center that will keep the government from going to the extremes. Israel needs a strong center that will fight corruption.

These elections are about one major question – can life here be better? And the answer is yes.

For that to happen, one more important thing needs to happen tomorrow. March 17 needs to be Netanyahu’s last day as prime minister of Israel. Not because he’s right wing and not because he’s from the Likud, but because he just doesn’t care anymore. He stopped caring about the citizens of Israel. He doesn’t care that it’s hard for them to pay their bills, he doesn’t care that their children won’t have an apartment, he doesn’t care that the residents of the Gaza region don’t sleep at night because they are asking themselves when the next round of violence will be. And because he doesn’t care, and everyone knows he doesn’t care, it’s time for him to go home.

Only a strong Yesh Atid, only a strong Israeli center, will prevent the clock being turned back on the achievements of the previous government. We will never forget that Buji and his Labor party didn’t vote for the national equal burden bill and for the ultra-Orthodox to join the workforce. They chose to leave the Knesset plenum that day and embrace Aryeh Deri. That embrace comes at a price. They will cancel the core curriculum in all schools and will put an end to the wonderful process in which young ultra-Orthodox people are going out to work instead of us paying their bills. We don’t have anything against the ultra-Orthodox, they are our brothers and sisters, but the Israeli contract needs to be equal for all. Everyone should have the same rights and the same responsibilities.

For 67 years there were only two options here. Left and right. That’s over. The right went further right, the left went further left and that’s how the Israeli center was born. The sane center, the reasonable middle ground in which most Israelis place themselves – not as a compromise but as an alternative.

The center is the place of real solutions, of the fight for quality of life, of the fight for a different and cleaner discourse, of political purity, of growth, of economic opportunity, of personal security and national security, and of the determination to create a better world starting right here in Israel. That’s the vision of Zionism.

As the election approaches we feel the change in the air. We’ve been through this before and so we can identify it this time as well. It’s even stronger than last time. It happened under the radar again, and again exactly at the right time it’s exploding out with such force that no-one could have predicted. We’ve all felt it over the past two weeks. The people who said, “I’ve come back to Yesh Atid,” the people who say “this time I’m with Yesh Atid,” and the people who say “it’s time to change Israel.”

When you go to vote on Tuesday, take a moment and enjoy the process. Enjoy the privilege of voting in a Jewish State. And then vote with the note with the Hebrew letters “peh-he” פה because we should choose hope over despair. Yesh Atid – There is a future.

About the Author
Yair Lapid is the former Prime Minister of Israel and currently the Leader of the Opposition in Israel.
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