Man in the Middle

How Israel's Oprah turned empathy into an electoral weapon and became the country's newest power broker

Oded Balilty / AP

When he wasn't on his talk show asking guests what they felt best symbolized Israel, Yair Lapid could be found in the marquee position in the nation's top-selling newspaper. His weekly column for Yediot Aharonot had pride of place in the fat weekend edition. Sometimes it was a platform for holding forth on current events, sometimes for ruminating on a personal life as public as any in Israel. "I'd like to know that my life has meaning," Lapid meditated in his column years ago, "to write one novel like The Old Man and the Sea, to win an election campaign that...

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