Former anchorman Yair Lapid isn’t the first Israeli politician to apprentice in a television studio. Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, the Prime Minister he nearly beat in the Jan. 22 balloting, made his bones defending Israel in overseas news interviews. Lapid used the same medium but tapped into domestic Israeli concerns and was carried into public office on the frustrations quietly accumulating in the living rooms where he was a fixture for two decades.
If the world at large views Israel through its conflict with the Palestinians, Lapid personifies the nation’s determinedly inward focus. A protest candidate from the center, he campaigned on economic justice for a forgotten middle class. After stunning the established parties, he held true to a promise of “new politics,” resisting Netanyahu’s blandishments and forging a government without Israel’s powerful religious parties. Already an author, playwright, actor, musician and widely read columnist, Lapid now answers to Finance Minister, but he says he expects, in the next election, to defeat his current boss — assuming Netanyahu runs again — and become Premier. He already has the swagger.
Vick is TIME’s Jerusalem bureau chief
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