We understood middle class, says Lapid strategist

By Nathalie Rothschild, January 24, 2013
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Mark Mellman, the Washington-based political strategist who helped devise Yesh Atid’s electoral campaign, has told the JC why he believes Yair Lapid was so successful.

“Lapid is an extraordinarily hard-working, intelligent guy who understands the problems of the people of Israel on a very deep level,” he said, adding that Yesh Atid had recognised that, “Israelis are very tired of political parties that are about helping themselves, their cronies and special-interest segments of society.”

Mr Lapid was offering voters “a party that has as its fundamental interest the broad middle class of Israelis who go to the army, who work, who pay taxes. That group has felt left out of the political process in recent years.”

Mr Lapid raised funds through crowdsourcing, had a strong presence on social media platforms and advanced a message of hope, leading some to draw parallels with Barak Obama.

But central to the Lapid strategy were small meetings in people’s homes on a daily basis, with attendances ranging from five to 100.

“Over the course of many months, he met with tens of thousands of people in their homes and got to know them on a personal level,” said Mr Mellman.

Mr Lapid is a celebrity in Israel but has no experience in parliamentary politics. This may have been to his advantage, according to Mr Mellman:

“I think they looked at experienced politicians and said this is not really the kind of politics we’re looking for.”

Both Yesh Atid and Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Habayit Hayehudi focused on English-speaking immigrants, with the party leaders addressing large, pre-election crowds in English.

Habayit Hayehudi released campaign videos in English focusing on Zionism and Jewish values and Mr Lapid published an op-ed in the English-language Times of Israel addressed to the country’s “immigrants of choice”.

US-born candidates Jeremy Gimpel of Habayit Hayehudi and Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid both hosted meetings in American families’ homes — a strategy that was enthusiastically pursued by Mr Lapid.

Last updated: 1:31pm, January 24 2013