Yosef Lapid, a former Israeli justice minister who campaigned against Orthodox religious controls in the Jewish state, died.
Lapid, who was known by his childhood nickname Tommy, succumbed to cancer in a Tel Aviv hospital Sunday. He was 77.
Born in the former Yugoslavia, Lapid lost his father in the Holocaust but managed to survive in hiding with his mother. He immigrated to Israel as a youth, mastering Hebrew and becoming a leading journalist and playwright.
His bitterness at the welfare benefits and exemptions from military service enjoyed by fervently Orthodox Jews in Israel led Lapid into politics. At the helm of the secularist Shinui Party, he made impressive gains in the 2003 elections and was appointed justice minister in Ariel Sharon’s coalition government.
Shinui eventually would bolt in a funding dispute and, its public image eroded by infighting and Lapid’s occasional invective against minorities, was trounced in a 2006 ballot.
Lapid returned to journalism, appearing regularly as a political commentator and defending his friend, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, against mounting allegations of corruption. While no friend of the Palestinian Authority, he also inveighed against the conduct of radical Israeli settlers in the West Bank.