Yair Lapid May Wind Up Helping Bibi

Popular TV Host Could Split Secular Israeli Vote

By Nathan Jeffay

Published January 14, 2012, issue of January 20, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Yair Lapid, anchor of Israel’s most popular weekend news show, columnist in the best-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot, author, screenwriter and one-time actor, is the self-styled voice of what he calls the “42%.”

Yair Lapid
getty images
Yair Lapid

According to his calculation, this is the proportion of the population that is Jewish, secular and Zionist. It’s a political constituency for which he is now making a claim. After years of anticipation, the handsome celebrity, once voted the 36th-greatest Israeli, revealed on January 8 that he is leaving journalism for politics. Before he even announced what his party will be called and who its other candidates will be — if indeed he is planning on starting a new party — polls showed that he would win between seven and 20 of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

“Once upon a time we were the most influential group in this country,” Lapid reminisced in a column last July, referring to the 42%. He lamented then that “because we’re the majority… we don’t deserve anything.” His entry into politics is premised on his ability to change that reality.

The opinion surveys that showed Lapid shaking up the political landscape have Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party more-or-less maintaining its current strength and Lapid taking most of his votes from Kadima — which actually has more seats than any other party in the current Knesset.

If this is accurate and Lapid’s popularity holds until the next election — scheduled for next February, but likely to take place sooner — analysts say that by entering politics, he will split the opposition vote and actually help return Likud to office.

“I think that Kadima is in deep trouble,” said Gideon Rahat, a Hebrew University political scientist and expert on political parties.

Kadima chairman Haim Ramon has called on Lapid to join his party, telling Army Radio that the “only way to remove Netanyahu from power is for Kadima, led by [Tzipi] Livni and Yair Lapid’s party, to run together.” But, responding to advice from members of the public on his Facebook page that such an arrangement could help him avoid pitfalls, he wrote, “If I was only looking for a way to protect myself from pitfalls, I would not have entered politics in the first place.”

In Rahat’s telling, Lapid’s decision to enter politics outside of Kadima is a blow to the already troubled party. Its lawmakers represent a broad political spectrum that has only barely contained bitter internal tensions. And as it was set up in 2005 largely to support the Gaza disengagement plan, it lacks the history, traditional voter base and defined ideology that keep traditional parties going during bad times. “This kind of party can disappear, not like Likud and Labor, which can become small but then hold on and revive,” Rahat said.

Some experts are slower to write off Kadima. Tel Aviv University political scientist Tamar Hermann believes that if Lapid does galvanize the secular Jewish demographic, this could lead to the likely victor in the next election, Likud, building an all-secular coalition. Hermann thinks that Likud may shun its current coalition partners, far-right Yisrael Beiteinu and the religious parties, when forming the next government. Kadima would lose a significant number of seats to Lapid, but survive to serve in the government along with Likud, Labor and Lapid’s party.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.