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Israel TV star joins politics as likely Netanyahu rival

Jan. 8, 2012 11:07 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 9, 2012 4:06 P.M.)
By: Allyn Fisher-Ilan
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- A popular Israeli television news anchor announced on Sunday he was quitting his job to run for parliament, a move seen as posing challenges for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and for his main centrist and left-of centre rivals.

Yair Lapid, 48, son of a former justice minister, has cast himself as a political moderate, fueling speculation he may seek a role in the centrist Kadima party headed by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, or start his own faction.

A statement posted on Israel's Channel 2 station's website on Sunday said he had now informed his superiors he intended to leave his three-year stint as weekend news anchor "to enter public life and run in the next parliamentary election."

He did not say whether he would form his own party or join another, the statement added.

Lapid soared to stardom in the 1990s as an evening talk show host. Last month an opinion poll suggested that if he headed a party he could win enough seats to make it the second largest in parliament, which could land him either a key cabinet job or a role as opposition leader.

Israeli media see Lapid as a possible successor to Livni to lead Kadima. His father, the late Yosef Lapid, a justice minister, headed a now-defunct centrist party called Shinui.

Israel's next parliamentary election is expected in 2013 but speculation has been rife that the date may be advanced since Netanyahu's decision to hold a snap leadership vote in his right-wing Likud party on Jan. 31, which pundits see as a bid to thwart any efforts by potential rivals to unseat him.
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