Speaking to a group of ultra-Orthodox men shortly before he officially entered politics, Yair Lapid, a proudly secular talk-show host, declared that in a century-long competition to define Israel’s character, “we lost and you won.”
“Not only in terms of numbers,” Mr. Lapid said in late 2011 at a college for religious students, but also in politics “and as a consumer force and in the streets and in the culture and in the educational system — you won in all these places.”
Now, Mr. Lapid’s stunning success in last week’s election, in which his new Yesh Atid became Israel’s second largest party, is being viewed by many voters, activists and analysts here as a victory for the secular mainstream in the intensifying identity battle gripping the country.
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