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New kind of Israeli politician? Yair Lapid doesn't talk about Iran, Palestinians

Yair Lapid, a hunky former TV news columnist, has fashioned himself as the everyman of a new generation of Israelis. But he faces tough competition from incumbent Netanyahu.

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Israeli Yair Lapid, popular former TV anchorman, head of the new centrist party being formed named Yesh Atid, speaks in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, May 1.

Ariel Schalit/AP

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Israelis are accustomed to retired military generals parachuting into politics and shaking things up. But now, as the country gears up for new elections in four months, the field has been scrambled by a new kind of would-be hero: a hunky former TV news columnist named Yair Lapid.

Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party holds a seemingly insurmountable lead in the polls, Mr. Lapid relies on a carefully cultivated image as the everyman of a new generation of Israelis. He doesn't talk much about Iran, or the conflict with Palestinians, but instead focuses on improving Israeli society. He has launched a new party called "There's a future" and challenges his followers to dream and not listen to cynics.

“He reminds us of what Israel could have been or should be. For the Israelis masses, he is willing to make concessions for peace, but still has a backbone. He is willing to fight for secular Jews, but doesn’t forget we have a Jewish people,” says Israel Waismel-Manor, a political science professor at the University of Haifa. “He is a man’s man: he boxes, and goes to the gym; but in some respects he’s a feminist – he adores his wife and supports women’s rights.”

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