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Yair Lapid Says the World Misunderstands Israel

This is the debut of The Interview, The New York Times’s new weekly series, featuring in-depth conversations with fascinating people. Each week, David Marchese or Lulu Garcia-Navarro will speak with notable figures in the worlds of culture, politics, business, sports, wellness and beyond. Like the magazine’s former Talk column, the conversations will appear online and in print, but now you can also listen to them in our new weekly podcast, “The Interview,” which is available wherever you get your podcasts. Below, you’ll find Lulu’s first interview with the Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid; David’s first interview, with the actress Anne Hathaway, is here.

Listen to the conversation with Yair Lapid

On the debut of ’The Interview,’ the Israeli opposition leader talks to Lulu Garcia-Navarro about his country’s future and defends the war.

Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,000 Israelis and capturing more than 200 hostages, Israel’s response has been swift and brutal. More than 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, a majority of them civilians, according to the local authorities. Most of Gaza’s infrastructure has been destroyed, and international pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the war, and to avoid a new war with Iran.

In this moment, I wanted to talk to one of Netanyahu’s most vocal critics inside Israel: Yair Lapid. Lapid is the official leader of the Israeli opposition. He’s a former journalist, TV host and actor who entered Israeli politics over a decade ago, founding a centrist party called Yesh Atid. He briefly became prime minister of Israel in 2022 — at the time, The Atlantic deemed him “the man who could end the Netanyahu era” — and he remains a member of the Knesset. After Oct. 7, he refused to join Netanyahu’s war cabinet. He has called for new elections to replace the current government. And he has publicly endorsed a two-state solution — something Netanyahu has actively worked against.

Lapid and I spoke twice this month, soon after he came to the United States to meet with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer. In our first conversation, Lapid made clear that he opposes Netanyahu but not how Israel is waging its war. When we spoke again, I pressed him on his defense of the war, and he told me why he feels Israel is so misunderstood.

Before we dig in on specifics, can you just tell me, as an Israeli leader, as an Israeli citizen, how you’re feeling about this moment in Israeli history? I mean, we’ve seen a slew of unprecedented things happen.

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