Yair Lapid, Israel's Rising Star, Is Still Great Unknown in Washington

Newcomer Lived in L.A., But Has Scant Ties to Establishment

Fresh Face: Yair Lapid, the man of the moment in Israel, is still widely unknown in Washington policy circles.
getty images
Fresh Face: Yair Lapid, the man of the moment in Israel, is still widely unknown in Washington policy circles.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 23, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Few in America have a close acquaintance with Yair Lapid, Israel’s new political kingmaker and a top contender for the post of foreign minister in a new Israeli government soon to be formed.

Lapid, who emerged as the nation’s new political star, winning 19 Knesset seats in the January 22 elections, has spent time working in the United States and has taken on the issue of religious pluralism in Israel, a topic dear to many American Jewish activists. But he is still a great unknown, especially to policymakers and analysts trying to assess his views on the Middle East and the Israeli – Palestinian peace process.

Lapid is no stranger to Washington, although he had little contact on issues relating to foreign policy. He attended the 2012 policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but spoke about his book rather than about policy. Lapid also visited Washington several times when his son spent a semester in the city.

Perhaps his most important point of contact for American politics is Mark Mellman, a top Democratic pollster and political strategist. Mellman worked on Lapid’s campaign in Israel and was praised in the Israeli press for his contribution to the successful campaign.

In 1997, after leaving a lucrative position as host of a popular entertainment show on Israeli TV, Lapid moved to Los Angeles, where he took on a job as head of New Regency Films’ TV division. The offer was made to Lapid by Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who was a close friend of Lapid’s late father, Yosef (Tommy) Lapid. Milchan had taken on the young Lapid as his protégé and Lapid later credited the time he spent with Milchan for his good English, which could now come in handy as a top Israeli cabinet member.

Less than a year after moving to Los Angeles, Lapid decided to return to Israel. In his book “Memories After My Death,” a posthumous biography of his father, he recalls making the decision after hearing of the March 1997 terror attack in a Tel Aviv cafe his father used to frequent. “I remembered this was your coffee shop,” he told his father on the phone from Los Angeles. “Yes, I just left before it happened,” Yosef Lapid replied. After a short pause his son announced: “I’m coming home.”


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!
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • 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.