Mr. Lapid completed his army service as a writer at a military magazine, later following in his father’s footsteps as a professional journalist. In the 1990s, he glided between several illustrious positions within the Israeli cultural establishment, balancing his column with a television talk show, while also acting in a handful of films, writing novels and even writing plays and television dramas.
By the 2000s, Mr. Lapid had become one of Israel’s best-known television hosts and commentators, noted for his noncombative style of questioning and middle-of-the-road columns.
He began planning for a political career toward the end of the decade, and in 2012 formed his own centrist, secular political party, Yesh Atid, or “There Is a Future.” It unexpectedly took second place behind Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud in a general election in 2013, entering a Netanyahu-led coalition government, and Mr. Lapid became finance minister.
Mr. Lapid was neither the first nor the last newcomer to attempt to break the mold of Israeli politics with a new centrist party. But to Mr. Lapid’s earliest political allies, there was a dynamism to his brand of centrism that they felt was original.
“I felt that I could come home,” said Yael German, once a mayor for a leftist party, Meretz, who later joined Yesh Atid and became one of its first lawmakers. “It was everything that I thought — putting limits on the religious parties, talking about civilian marriage, L.G.B.T. rights, giving up the occupied territories, two states for two peoples.”
Meretz “was always too left for me, too extreme,” Ms. German added. “But Yair wasn’t.”
To Mr. Lapid’s critics, however, there was a shallowness to his politics and an arrogance to his manner. What allies saw as an ability to bridge between left and right, others considered a lack of ideological clarity. Satirists set up a website, known as the “Lapidomator,” that allowed users to generate vacuous statements on any given topic — mocking the perceived emptiness of Mr. Lapid’s ideas.