Yair Lapid may be the current Prime Minister of Israel, but that won’t be long. He has mere four months to prove as an incumbent Prime Minister until the Israeli legislative elections this coming November. Lapid has served concurrently as Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2021.
Before becoming Prime Minister, Lapid served as Alternate Prime Minister with now-former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in a rotation government, from June 2021 to June 2022. Bennett is now the Alternate Prime Minister.
Lapid’s background was quite different from the other Israeli Prime Ministers. He was a journalist and television personality by profession (he even acted for some time).
Personal life and media career
Yair Lapid was born on November 5, 1963, in Tel Aviv. His family has been involved in journalism, the media, and literature.
His father, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid (1931 – 2008) was a journalist, playwright, radio and television host, and politician who served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice from 2003 to 2004. He was born in Yugoslavia (present-day Serbia), to Hungarian-Jewish parents. Tommy Lapid was known for his outspoken support of secularism and his criticism of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox political parties. He led the centrist party Shinui (“Change”).
Yair’s mother is the award-winning novelist and playwright Shulamit (Giladi) Lapid, born in 1934 in Tel Aviv. She is of Austrian Jewish descent. Her father was a journalist, novelist, and translator who co-founded the daily newspaper Maariv (“evening”).
Yair Lapid was raised in Tel Aviv and London. After he dropped out of high school, he joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), spending most of his years there as a military correspondent for the IDF’s weekly paper Bamahane (“in the base camp”).
In 1988, Lapid was appointed editor of Yedioth Tel Aviv, a local newspaper published by the Yedioth Ahronoth (“latest news”), one of the prominent national dailies in Israel. In 1991, he began writing a weekly column for Maariv, the newspaper that his maternal grandfather helped co-found.
During this period, Lapid also tried his hand in other fields, such as songwriting, screenwriting, and acting, with considerable success. Some songs he wrote for other artists became chart hits in Israel. He also dabbled in amateur boxing. In addition, he authored several books (mostly thrillers) and wrote at least one play.
Over the years, Lapid hosted television programs, including talk shows and a highly rated newsmagazine, Ulpan Shishi (“Friday Studio”).
Lapid has been married twice. He has three children, including two from his current marriage. His daughter has autism. His wife, Lihi Lapid, is an author, photojournalist, newspaper columnist, and advocate for people with disabilities and special needs.
In January 2012, Lapid left his journalism career to enter politics, forming his own centrist party “Yesh Atid” (“There is a Future”). The party’s platform focused on the economic concerns of Israel’s middle class, which had become as a major political force during a wave of socio-economic protest in the summer of 2011.
In the 2013 legislative elections, Yesh Atid pulled off an impressive showing. It won 19 seats in the Knesset – the second-largest after the 31 seats won by the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu alliance.
In March 2013, Lapid was appointed Minister of Finance by Likud chairman and then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In December 2014, Netanyahu dismissed Lapid as Prime Minister, citing friction within the governing coalition, among other factors.
Yesh Atid’s popularity had begun to decrease. In the 2015 legislative elections, Yesh Atid lost seven seats and was relegated to being the fourth-largest party in the Knesset. Lapid, however, positively responded to the party’s performance, saying that Yesh Atid was “here to stay.” Throughout the years, Lapid has continued to be the key figure of Yesh Atid.
As the April 2019 elections drew near, Lapid and Yesh Atid once again stood for a solid performance but was still not enough to challenge Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, Benny Gantz, a well-known general of the Israel Defense Forces, was a political newcomer but seen by many as the most viable challenger against Netanyahu. In a last-minute decision, Yesh Atid joined Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party to form Blue and White, a new party whose members included the most illustrious names in Israel’s defense establishment. Blue and White’s members agreed upon the deal wherein the post of the Prime Minister would rotate between Gantz and Lapid. Blue and White tied with Likud with 35 seats apiece, but they weren’t able to form a coalition government. A few months later, Israel held another set of elections. Again, no coalition could be formed, sending the country to its third elections in March 2020.
No clear winner emerged from these elections, but the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic forced Gantz to agree to an emergency unity government under Netanyahu’s administration. This caused almost half of Blue and White, including Lapid himself, to split from Gantz and return to Yesh Atid’s fold. Due to these events, Lapid became Leader of the Opposition.
The split from Gantz and Blue and White ultimately allowed Lapid to form a coalition. In the 2021 elections – Israel’s fourth election in less than three years – Yesh Atid and Blue and White ran separately, with the former party eventually outperforming the latter so far. Despite coming in a distant second to Netanyahu’s Likud, Lapid was able to form a broad – and diverse – coalition that was united by the desire to unseat Netanyahu. According to the coalition’s agreement, Bennett – who had just succeeded Ayelet Shaked as leader of the right-wing Yamina party – would serve as Prime Minister and Lapid as Alternate Prime Minister for the first half of the four-year term. However, the coalition would allow Lapid to become Prime Minister should it collapse prematurely.
On June 13, 2021, Netanyahu was ousted as Prime Minister, and Bennett was sworn in as the new Prime Minister. Upon Lapid’s designation as Alternate Prime Minister, he was also appointed Minister of Strategic Affairs. This ministry dissolved and merged into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the following August, making Lapid its new minister, a position he still holds today.
As Prime Minister
On June 20, 2022, following several legislative failures and mounting defections to the coalition, Bennett and Lapid introduced a bill to dissolve the Knesset. Ten days later, the Knesset was dissolved, triggering Israel’s fifth election in less than four years. Upon its dissolution, Lapid and Bennett switched seats, with Lapid as Prime Minister and Bennett as Alternate Prime Minister.
Lapid serves as incumbent Prime Minister in a caretaker capacity until elections take place on November 1, 2022.