Skip to content

From heart-throb to the hot seat: Lapid to become Israeli PM

  • by

JERUSALEM (REUTERS) – As a TV star, Yair Lapid’s weekly commentary was entitled Being Israeli – a rhapsody about the middle-class, politically centrist ranks that he saw holding together a fractious country, with him as their tribune.

As interim prime minister, the still-chiselled but now gray-haired Mr Lapid, who will welcome US President Joe Biden on his visit to Israel next month, may have to reach out more widely to maintain a stable government.

A decade in public service at the head of the Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party which he founded and in which he has never faced a serious challenger, the 58-year-old has built a solid resume of Cabinet roles and statecraft.

Now foreign minister, the centre-left Lapid has also held the finance portfolio and sat in the security Cabinet – Israel’s decision-making forum on war or peace.

Next week, he will take over from Mr Naftali Bennett as prime minister when lawmakers vote to dissolve Parliament and pave the way for the country’s fifth election in three years.

In contrast to Mr Bennett’s impatience with talk of renewing talks on Palestinian statehood, Mr Lapid has described such diplomacy as necessary for Israel’s well-being – but argued that both sides are too domestically hamstrung to pursue them.

On Israel’s arch-foe Iran, the two have been in lockstep and Mr Lapid is not expected to change course.

Despite not graduating from high school, Mr Lapid became a successful writer and made no secret of self-teaching with each new government role.

During an earlier stint in Hollywood working for Israeli-US mogul Arnon Milchan, Mr Lapid gained a regard for American power-projection and expectations of a Middle East ally.

In 2005, he wrote a popular TV series, War Room, whose dialogue and camerawork drew directly from The West Wing but whose premise was an Israeli fantasy: A secret unit of elite spies and military officers who handled national crises as professionals, rather than politicians.

But Mr Lapid learned how to horse-trade.

After an unhappy alliance with Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, he teamed up with Mr Bennett to topple the veteran premier a year ago at the head of an unprecedentedly diverse coalition of nationalist, liberal and Arab parties.

That entailed spurning ultra-Orthodox Jewish factions who found themselves in the opposition and whose leaders have long scorned Mr Lapid as Yaheer – Hebrew for arrogant and a pun on his first name.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.