Who is Yair Lapid, Israel's incoming interim prime minister? - explainer

Yair Lapid has worn many hats over the years, taking on several positions at once even before entering politics in 2012.

Foreign Minister and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Foreign Minister and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is set to take over as interim prime minister during the period of political transition in the wake of the upcoming dissolution of the Knesset.

Foreign observers may be unfamiliar with Lapid, but he has been a mainstay of Israeli domestic politics for almost a decade.

Lapid's early life

Lapid was born in Tel Aviv in 1963 to playwright, novelist and journalist Shulamit Lapid (nee Giladi) and journalist-turned-politician Yosef Lapid, who served as Israel's Justice Minister. Yosef Lapid was active in Knesset until just two years before his death in 2008, serving (at varying times) as Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Minister, leader of the liberal secular Shinui party and Opposition Leader. Shulamit Lapid, in addition to her many literary accomplishments, was one of the founders of the Israeli newspaper Maariv

During his IDF service, Lapid primarily worked in media, writing for the then-print magazine Bamachane, a magazine published by the IDF. Upon release from service, Lapid began reporting for Maariv

In 1991, Lapid began his television career hosting a talk show on Channel 1 and branching out to host current affairs shows on others over the next 20 years. He wrote and published several books during this time- thrillers, children's books, two novels and a collection of newspaper columns. He also wrote a television series, which aired in 2004. 

Read more on the dissolution of the Knesset and the upcoming elections:

Lapid enters politics

Lapid entered politics in 2012, founding the Yesh Atid party. Like his father's Shinui party, Yesh Atid is a liberal Zionist group. However, while Shinui's platform called for the separation of religion and state, Yesh Atid is more interested in "integrating the values of Judaism and democracy" per the Knesset website. The party considers itself secular and centrist, generally pushing for liberal-minded reforms that favor the working class. 

 Foreign Minister and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid at Tel Aviv Pride Parade 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Foreign Minister and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid at Tel Aviv Pride Parade 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Yesh Atid won a surprising 19 seats in the Knesset in 2013, becoming the second-largest party barely one year after its conception. Lapid also became Finance Minister during that Knesset term. 

During the 23rd Knesset, Lapid served as head of the opposition for about one year. Yesh Atid received 17 seats in the current 24th Knesset, and soon after the March 2021 elections forming the 24th Knesset, Lapid announced the formation of a rotation government with Prime Minister Naftali Bennet. 

Lapid's recent exploits

In his role as foreign minister, Lapid hosted the historical Negev Summit in March of 2020, attended by representatives from Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The talks were unfortunately interrupted by a sudden terror attack in Hadera. 

Lapid was the one asked by President Rivlin to form the coalition in 2021. Lapid pointed this out specifically in an early-June interview with the Jerusalem Post, prefacing the statement by saying "let me remind you what people tend to forget." 

The Foreign Minister has maintained his steadfastness in both his desire for a two-state solution and his support for the current settlement bloc. He has also been very vocal in light of violence at the Temple Mount earlier in 2022, affirming his belief in a united Jerusalem under Jewish control. He came out in favor of the Western Wall agreement and LGBTQ+ rights. 

On his political leanings, Lapid said: "When people say 'I'm in the Right' or 'I'm in the left,' - you're in the Right or in the Left of something and you are in the Right or the Left of the only one thing that matters, which is the center, which is the hardworking people who make the machine tick."

Dissolution of the Knesset

Bennett and Lapid resolved to dissolve the Knesset on Monday, giving up on efforts to stabilize the coalition. 

This is the fifth election in Israel in three and a half years.

Lapid will become interim prime minister until the election and until the new government takes power.

“A year ago, we started the process of rebuilding, and now we’re carrying it on and carrying it on together,” Lapid said during a press conference on Monday alongside Bennett. “What we need to do today is go back to the concept of Israeli unity – not to let dark forces tear us apart from within. We must remind ourselves that we love one another, love our country, and that only together will we prevail.”