Jair Lapid had a clear timeline to become Israel's prime minister: on August 27, 2023, he was to take the long-awaited post.

This is what the coalition agreement of June 2021 envisaged, which established a “rotational government”: Naftali Bennett was to contest the first half of the legislative period, Lapid the second.

However, the premature end of the eight-party coalition rendered all plans obsolete.

Except for one: Because the coalition agreement also provided for the event that the Knesset should dissolve itself – the transfer of office would take place immediately.

The paradoxical result is that Lapid is now prime minister precisely because the majority vote on which he originally relied no longer exists.

Equally unusual is that there is neither an election nor an oath.

Christian Meier

Political correspondent for the Middle East and Northeast Africa.

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The foreign minister and leader of the centrist party "Yesh Atid - There is a future" is only prime minister on call until a new government is formed.

Israel's recent history has shown, however, that unclear election results can delay this process considerably.

Between the spring of 2019 and the early summer of 2021, Benjamin Netanyahu was in office for more than a year and a half.

The Likud leader will also be Lapid's main opponent in the November 1 election.

It remains to be seen whether the right-wing bloc around Netanyahu will be able to secure a majority.

Lapid is determined to prevent "Bibi's" return.

When the new elections were announced, he spoke somberly of “dark forces” threatening to tear the country apart from within – a foretaste of the election campaign.

Lapid himself was involved in a Netanyahu government: from 2013 to 2014 he was finance minister.

Shortly before, he had taken off as a politician;

his party, which was founded under the impression of the social protests of 2011, immediately became the second strongest force in parliament.

At that time, Lapid was already a dazzling celebrity in Israel: as a singer, actor, journalist, author of children's books, thrillers, television series and plays, and finally host of the most important television talk show.

When he switched to politics, he emulated his father Josef "Tommy" Lapid.

The Holocaust survivor from Hungary was also a journalist. Twenty years ago he had led the secular Shinui Party to a brief heyday.

Jair Lapid has also positioned himself as a representative of the liberal middle class from the start.

For a long time, however, the school dropout and amateur boxer was considered a political lightweight.

And after the initial successes, his Yesh Atid suffered a severe fall in the 2015 Knesset elections.

Since then, however, Lapid, who is now 58, has visibly matured politically.

He carefully pursues his long-term goals, even if that means temporarily putting his own ambitions aside and letting others take precedence.

In June 2021, he managed to build the heterogeneous coalition that broke the political stalemate in Israel.

Less than an hour before the deadline, he informed then-President Reuven Rivlin that he had the votes to form a government - not under his leadership, of course, but first under that of Bennett, although his right-wing Jamina party had far fewer seats had won as Yesh Atid.

That was the price Lapid had to pay;

he himself became foreign minister and “alternating prime minister”.

The rest is history – also because with the Bennett-Lapid government, an Islamic party became part of a governing coalition for the first time.

Even after that, it was always Lapid who preserved or restored the coalition peace between the unequal partners.

The reward is that Yesh Atid was the only coalition party to gain ground in polls last year.

Now it is up to Lapid to use this good starting position until the election.

The fact that he is acting prime minister should help him – it will be Jair Lapid who will receive American President Joe Biden in Israel in mid-July, and who knows whether he will announce the establishment of diplomatic relations with another Arab country by the autumn can.

At the same time, he will mainly woo voters in the middle of the political spectrum.

The only thing that matters, Lapid once said, is "the middle, which are the hard-working people who keep the machine running."

He advocates the reduction of subsidies for non-working ultra-Orthodox Jews.

On most other points, Lapid represents the Israeli mainstream with a liberal touch.

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he advocates a two-state solution, but leaves details open.

Here, as in other issues, a radical policy is not to be expected from him - especially not in the coming months.

He'll have enough to do to fend off the attacks that will come crashing down on him from the right.

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