One of Israel's most popular television personalities quit the news business Sunday to start his own political party, a move that could shake up the Israeli political system by energizing opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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JERUSALEM — One of Israel’s most popular television personalities quit the news business Sunday to start his own political party, a move that could shake up the Israeli political system by energizing opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yair Lapid is a best-selling author and columnist who has anchored Channel 2’s top-rated weekend news edition for the past four years. Polls show the 48-year-old Lapid would do well, particularly with secular voters.

A poll conducted late last week by Israel Radio said a Lapid-led party could win as many as 15 seats in the 120-seat parliament if elections were held now.

That could make it the second-largest party after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

Elections in Israel are set for late 2013, but in Israel’s parliamentary system, governments rarely serve their full terms, and analysts believe elections could take place as early as this year.

Lapid’s image as a secularist likely boosted his poll results, as Israel is in the throes of controversy over efforts by ultra-Orthodox Jews to impose their strict lifestyles on less observant Israeli Jews in some places.

Netanyahu’s coalition government is based on close cooperation with ultra-Orthodox parties.

Critics have accused Lapid of using his TV anchor desk to promote an agenda. His show recently broke the story of an 8-year-old schoolgirl who was spat on and cursed by ultra-Orthodox extremists. The story sparked an angry outcry against religious extremists.

Lapid’s move from journalism to politics mirrors that of his late father, Joseph Lapid, a newspaper columnist and TV personality who started his own party and went on to become justice minister.

Little is known about Lapid’s political views. But in his columns and television commentaries, he portrays himself as a reasonable and pragmatic common man, patriotic yet critical of the government and sympathetic to social issues.

Such views could make him attractive to centrist Israelis.

Political analyst Hanan Crystal said Lapid alone would not unseat Netanyahu and instead would take away votes from the centrist Kadima and Labor parties, which sit in the opposition.

“He won’t break up the blocs, but he could break up some parties,” Crystal said. “The big question is who will join him. If he brings serious people aboard, he could be a major factor.”