Yair Lapid, the big winner in Tuesday's national elections, delivered an emotional speech at Yesh Atid's party headquarters after midnight. "A heavy responsibility has been placed on our shoulders tonight. Throughout the entire election campaign I was told again and again 'Don't forget us when you get there, don't be like all those who get elected and forget.' I won't."
According to exit polls released by the three major television networks, the centrist Yesh Atid party won 18 Knesset seats in the elections and will be the second largest party in the Knesset.
Lapid said, "There is a possibility to create a true and fair Center that listens to the other, that remembers that we are together; not at the expense of one another, but together.
"I urge the senior members of the political system to form as broad a government as possible that would unite the moderate forces from the Left and Right, so that we will be able to bring about real change in the State of Israel," he said.
Pre-election polls predicted that Yair Lapid's party would win no more than 10 mandates in the national election.
Lapid initially responded to the surprising results by saying "Thank you" on his Facebook page.
Yesh Atid's supporters cheered upon hearing the results of the exit polls. "There is a feeling that the country has returned to our hands – to the hands of the silent majority of the middle class," said Yifat Kariv, number 16 on Yesh Atid's Knesset list. "The public said, 'This is our country, and we are not surrendering it to anyone.' The public voted for an equal share of the burden, housing and a lower cost of living."
Rabbi Shai Piron,
number two on Yesh Atid's Knesset list, said "What we have here is an event on a historic scale. I want to remind everyone that a few weeks ago the polls showed we would win 5-6 mandates. Now we have to figured out what we are going to do."
Throughout the election campaign, Lapid claimed that the undecided voters may change the picture. "There were days when we thought that all is lost, particularly after Tzipi Livni
(Hatnua leader) entered the arena," a senior party member said Tuesday night. "We thought the dream was over, but it is only beginning."
Ilana Curiel and Tzvika Brot are Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondents