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Yair Lapid quits journalism, plunges into politics
By GIL HOFFMAN
01/08/2012
Journalist reportedly leaving job as news anchor; bill aims to place cooling-off period for journalists entering politics.
 
Channel 2 anchorman Yair Lapid ended years of speculation on Sunday when he announced he would follow in the footsteps of his late father, former Shinui chairman Yosef Tommy Lapid, and shift careers from journalism to politics.

Lapid officially informed Channel 2’s management of his decision to leave his post as anchor of the highly rated Friday news magazine Ulpan Shishi on Sunday after his superiors gave him an ultimatum that he needed to make a choice about his future as soon as possible.

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“I have embarked on a new path,” Lapid wrote in a message to his supporters on his Facebook wall that received more than 3,000 “likes” in under two hours. “I am emboldened by the strength I receive from knowing that I am doing what I believe in. You are my community, and I receive a lot of strength from you.”

Three polls published in the past month have predicted that a party led by Lapid could win as many as the 15 Knesset seats won by Shinui in 2003, and one survey even said it could win 20. But many new parties and politicians have seen their support erode after their political career shifted from hypothetical to real.

The polls have shown that a party led by Lapid would take most of its support away from Kadima, the party whose emergence led to Shinui’s demise. A Shvakim Panorama poll broadcast on Israel Radio 10 days ago found that Kadima would fall from its current 28 seats in the Knesset to only 10 if Lapid entered politics and formed a new party.

But the new party’s fate could depend on whom Lapid drafts to his Knesset slate. Speculation has centered on recently resigned Teva CEO Shlomo Yanai, Rabbi Shai Piron of Oranit, Holon Mayor Moti Sasson, Herzliya Mayor Yael German, former Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy, Ma’ariv columnist Ofer Shelah, and the late kidnapped soldier Ehud Goldwasser’s wife, Karnit.

Lapid is expected to take his time forming the new party and drafting the candidates list while holding events around the country to meet and listen to the public.

Channel 2 reported that a possible name for the party was The Israelis, a name used by a party that did not cross the electoral threshold in the last election.

By announcing his intention to enter politics, Lapid preempted Wednesday’s vote in the Knesset Law Committee on the so-called “Yair Lapid Bill,” which would institute a cooling-off period of six months to a year for journalists before they could get elected. The bill, which passed in preliminary readings in June 2010, will still be brought to a vote, but it is expected to attract less support now that it cannot delay Lapid’s political career.

“Yair Lapid was a politician wearing a journalist costume,” said the bill’s sponsor, Likud MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen. “If we backtrack from legislating the bill we would prove the bill was only intended for him. But we are trying to establish new norms via legislation and that’s what I intend to do.”

Lapid has articulated many of his opinions in his weekly column in Yediot Aharonot and in public addresses he has given. His views are expected to become the platform of his party.

In a June 2010 speech in Herzliya, Lapid expressed support for writing a constitution, changing the electoral system, drafting yeshiva students, requiring haredim (ultra-Orthodox) to study the core curriculum, transferring a quarter of the defense budget to education, returning the Golan Heights to Syria, closing Army Radio and limiting the number of cabinet ministers. He also pushed for a large West Bank withdrawal.

“There is a dispute about whether we should or should not return territories,” Lapid said. “But the real debate must be about whether the state can stand up to the settlers, who are just 1.5 percent of the country but have said they would do everything possible to prevent a withdrawal from taking place.”
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