Prominent Left-wing journalist Yair Lapid is leaving television for politics, as annouced Sunday evening

On Sunday, left-wing journalist Yair Lapid announced his resignation from Israeli television to pursue a political career.  In response, a bill that would keep journalists out of politics for 6 months after their resignation was pushed up to Wednesday of this week.

For the last four years, Yair Lapid has been one of the most popular Israeli journalists, hosting the “Ulpan Shishi” program on Friday evenings that receives high ratings and wide viewership.  However, over the last year, Lapid has hinted at his intention to enter the political arena in his father’s footsteps.  The first hint was a column titled “The Left’s Revenge Will Come” which outlined his plans for right-wing politicians if he were to become prime minister.  Since then, Lapid’s columns on outlets such as Yediot Aharonot and his Ulpan Shishi program have become increasingly politicized which increased the speculation.  On Sunday, he announced he would enter politics and the announcement was broadcast by Channel Two, his employer.

In response to the speculation regarding Lapid’s political aspirations, MK Ronit Tirosh submitted a bill that has become known as the “Lapid Bill”.  If passed, the bill would require half year “cool-off” period in which journalists would be banned from politics before running public office.  While Tirosh vehemently denied any connection to the bill, it still appears to be directed at Lapid because he is the only journalist who recently has expressed interest in entering politics.  Because of the announcement, the bill will face a preliminary vote on Wednesday.

When Lapid enters politics, it is expected that he could take votes from both the Labor and Kadima Parties.  Lapid labels himself as a centrist, but is likely to join the left-wing bloc of Israeli politians.  Haredi lawmakers have expressed concern that Lapid would continue in his father’s Tommy’s footsteps in advancing a fiercely anti-religious agenda.  Tommy Lapid, the former Justice Minister, was infamous for his hatred of religion and was the cause of the Haredi sector leaving the government.

The responses to Lapid’s announcement and the bill were mixed.  Left wing MKs from the Meretz who were also former journalists applauded the decision, but criticized the bill as irrelevant.  Right-wing MKs were mostly silent on the issue, although one Likud MK said Lapid has always been a politician and the decision proves it.  Knesset members from the Haredi sector have not commented at this time.