What took the Vatican cardinals one day, took the Israeli political system a month and a half. What does this say about the Catholic Church? Or more to the point- what does this say about Israeli politics? In any case, since the race is almost over, it is time for political pundits to determine the winners and the losers, while the real potential winner or loser is the Israeli public. For never before has there been a government with such potential for change on the one hand, and risk of a quick demise on the other.
As for victors, there can be no doubt that Lapid and Bennet come out with flying colors. Taking Netanyahu for a ride, they played their “hard-to-get” and “nothing-to-lose” cards well. Identifying a weakened Netanyahu, they handled their first negotiations perfectly. Netanyahu, who would have preferred his usual partners (the ultra right and religious parties), had no choice but to align himself with the demands presented to him. Both Lapid and Bennet are mainly committed to their appearance in the eyes of the public, and can therefore present their voters with real achievements, line-in-line with their election promises. The obvious losers, on the other hand, are the Likud members who are left to quarrel over the crumbs. The title “King Bibi”, as the Time magazine called Netanyahu last year to express his unrivaled status in Israeli politics, now seems somewhat obsolete.
Herein lays the problem. For what Lapid and Bennet’s negotiation tactics also reveal is an underlying disrespect of Netanyahu’s leadership capabilities and qualities, which can be a dangerous thing in a forced alliance. It’s one thing to handle coalition negotiations, but making life and death decisions are a totally different story. Taking into consideration that the coming years promise to be full of critical decisions influencing Israel and the Middle East as a whole (Palestinians, Iran, Syria, etc.), having a government with no clear and respected hierarchy and authority is dangerous. The first real crisis might send the coalition packing, and Israel to elections – an outcome we can all agree is detrimental to Israel’s current situation.
Another likely source of instability for the government are the more than disgruntled Likud members who were hoping for a nicer office and car. Never mind the two new players on the block, Netanyahu faces internal discontent, and may have to fend off attacks on his authority from within his own ranks.
Lapid and Bennet have achieved much, but they have yet to prove themselves worthy of the titles to be bestowed on them. Lapid faces the extremely challenging task of steering Israel’s economy in turbulent waters. Indeed, one could perceive the job of Finance minister as being more of a honey trap than anything else. Should he be successful, he will most likely be paving his way to being the next Israeli Prime Minister. Failure, on the other hand, will send him and his party to the graveyard of start-up center parties.