TEL AVIV, March 15 Yair Lapid, a former TV
anchor whose upstart political party was the biggest surprise in
Israel's election, was named the country's new finance minister
on Friday as a government coalition deal was signed, his
Lapid's centrist Yesh Atid party won a more-than-expected 19
seats in the Jan. 22 ballot, the second most behind Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud-Beiteinu
alliance's 31 seats in the 120-member parliament.
After nearly six weeks of negotiations, Yesh Atid agreed on
Thursday to join a Netanyahu-led governing coalition. The deal,
and a separate alliance between Likud-Beiteinu and the far-right
Jewish Home party, were signed on Friday.
Lapid, who will replace Yuval Steinitz once a new government
is sworn in, ran largely on a platform of easing the financial
yoke of the middle class through the need to share the national
burden - a rejection of privileges for the ultra-Orthodox. He
will be forced to make steep government spending cuts and raise
taxes to keep Israel's budget deficit under control.