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Prominent, Anti-Chareidi News Anchor Takes a Stab at Politics

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Famed journalist Yair Lapid announced his decision to enter politics on Sunday. Polls indicate that his new Israeli party could secure up to twenty spots in the next Knesset election.
Famed journalist Yair Lapid announced his decision to enter politics on Sunday. Polls indicate that his new Israeli party could secure up to twenty spots in the next Knesset election.
The preeminent news anchor and columnist, Yair Lapid, has relinquished his journalistic career to make an entry into the political arena. Lapid, 48, is widely recognized as a premier Israeli journalist, and his decision has issued a range of reactions from officials across the political spectrum. The popular host of Ulpan Shishi, Israel’s Channel Two’s acclaimed Friday-night program, announced his decision Sunday, and polls indicate that his nascent party could secure up to twenty seats in the upcoming Knesset election.
Due to the renewed discussion of religiosity in Israel in the wake of the latest extremist activity, politicians opposed to the conflation of religion and state have striven to translate the latest drama into party seats. In the case with Lapid, his decision to establish a political party also stemmed from an attempt to foil the passage of a bill in the Knesset aimed at installing a six month to one year “cooling off” period for journalists interested in trying for a political party. The son of Tommy Lapid, the renowned liberal who was noted for his scathing critiques of the ultra-Orthodox political parties, many think Yair will adopt a similarly anti-Chareidi slant in his political platform.
“There will now be competition for who could attack Chareidi Jewish values more in order to get more [support],” said Interior Minister Eli Yishai to Israeli Public Radio following Lapid’s announcement. “This could bring us more [support], but I prefer that there be unity among the Jewish people.”
Lapid’s columns in Yediot Acharonot have provided the forum through which he has expressed his political views, and media sources intimate that his general political perspective can be characterized as centrist. Some of the stands that he has popularly espoused include his support for writing an Israeli constitution, mandating the study of the core curriculum by Chareidim and their participation in the army, returning the Golan Heights to Syria, and withdrawing from the West Bank. According to media sources, the presence of the new political party will be most detrimental to Kadima. This suggests that Lapid will appeal to more moderate citizens who have previously aligned themselves with the leftist opposition party.
The anchor’s departure from Channel 2 comes at a time when Israeli media is become increasingly stifled by government control. Earlier this past month, the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee voted to support state-operated Channel 1, but denied similar financial assistance to private Channel 10. This provoked outrage from many who construed the Knesset decisions as undemocratic, and placed greater spotlight on Channel 2, the only other commercial news station in Israel. Whether the decline of media influence and the burgeoning political presence factored into Lapid’s decision, it is clear that Israeli politics has and will continue to evolve in light of recent developments. “I am equipped with the power of knowing I am doing something I believe in. You are my community and I draw my strength from you. I promise … to continue to listen to you,” said Lapid on his Facebook page following his announcement.

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