Netanyahu Fears His Finance Chief Will Bolt the Coalition

Plummeting in the polls, Finance Minister Yair Lapid is looking for an artificial crisis, Likud officials say.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Former Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In better days: Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: Oren Nachshon
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is worried that Finance Minister Yair Lapid plans to flee the governing coalition in an attempt to strengthen his image before the next election.

A Likud official who spoke with Netanyahu about the matter said Saturday it appeared that Lapid was “intentionally putting himself at a dead end so he can justify resigning from the coalition. Lapid understands that his term has been a failure, and he apparently wants to make a move that will let the people forget his meager achievements.”

Under this thinking, Lapid would wait until the ultra-Orthodox parties enter the coalition instead of Yesh Atid, the centrist party headed by Lapid.

“With Lapid as opposition head, a Likud-Haredi government would be an easy target that would make the people forget the ongoing failure of Yesh Atid and strengthen it ahead of the next election,” the Likud official said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, speaking on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press,” underscored these sentiments.

“I think the finance minister has a personal interest in no longer being finance minister,” Hanegbi said. “Lapid is looking for an artificial crisis. With the ultimatums he is presenting and knows are impossible to accept, even an election is better from his point of view than seeing Yesh Atid continue to plummet in the polls.”

Netanyahu’s associates have mentioned Lapid’s aim to put a lid on the defense budget as a reason for his departure. They also cite his demand to increase the deficit and promote the zero-VAT bill for certain home buyers.

Yesh Atid’s head in the Knesset, MK Ofer Shelah, said the claims were unfounded. “I don’t know that the finance minister has decided to go for an election,” Shelah said on “Meet the Press.” He attacked Netanyahu for criticizing Lapid.

“This isn’t how dialogue is conducted between a prime minister and a finance minister when the prime minister announces things that contradict each other. In such an atmosphere, we could reach a process that would lead us to an election.”