Israel’s Lapid: from TV anchor to coalition architect

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Yair Lapid is a former opposition leader and television anchor who has forged a coalition alliance that will, if approved by parliament Sunday, unseat Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. When Lapid founded his centrist Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party in 2012, some dismissed him as the latest in a series of media stars seeking to transform his celebrity into political success. But his fiercely secularist party finished second with 17 seats in March elections, Israel’s fourth inconclusive national vote in less than two years. He was mandated last month to form a government after Netanyahu failed in his own efforts to build a post-election government. Lapid cobbled together a coalition of bitter ideological rivals, ranging from right-wing religious nationalists to conservative Muslim Arab citizens of Israel, and the Knesset will either approve or scupper his bloc on Sunday. His improbable alliance is all the more remarkable given recent intercommunal clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens, sparked by the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Palestinian enclave of Gaza. Under the coalition deal, Lapid would assume the premiership only after a two-year stint at the top by his main coalition ally, nationalist hardliner Naftali Bennett.