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!
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • 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.