Analysis |

Time to Admit: The Bennett-Lapid Government Failed as an Alternative to Netanyahu

The political courage of the leaders of Israel’s ruling coalition is admirable, but their failure to pass a key West Bank legislation leads to one sad conclusion: Right-wingers don’t believe in them and want to see a different government

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz and Merav Michaeli at the Knesset, on Sunday.
Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz and Merav Michaeli at the Knesset, on Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

The supporters of the “government of change” are taking their irritation out on the United Arab List, Meretz and the Yesh Atid chairman, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid – the latter being the facilitator of the agreement with Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi to return to the government – because of the stinging failure in the vote on extending the emergency regulations in the West Bank.

Some even support the sharp words of Yamina MK Nir Orbach – who is now at the height of his dramatic political career – “the experiment with you has failed.”

But the truth is that the experiment that failed is the right-wing's attempt to create a meaningful, strong, proud and powerful camp without Likud chairman and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

You have to appreciate the courage of Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in facing off against Netanyahu and trying to create an alternative to him on the right. But it must also be conceded, not without regret, that as of now, at least it seems like they have failed.

If the representatives of the right fail politically when it comes to a core value like the rights of the settlers, and do not win a critical mass that includes pressure from below, the outcome is rather sad for them.

The rightist public, including supporters of the settlements, don’t trust the representatives of the right wing in the governing coalition or believe in their political horizon. They assume that the who-knows-how-close election is ahead, and therefore they don’t get excited over a cynical vote by the right wing parties in the opposition. They believe that this vote is meaningless at this point, except to bring down the government – which they supported with all their heart.

We may risk assuming that most of the settlers still believe that Netanyahu and MK Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism) are better for them than the current government. One may focus on the vote of this or that rebel or attention-seeking MK, but the real failure is in building a community on the right that not only will include, but also empower and encourage those who come out against Netanyahu and his family’s perfidious ways in government.

As long as representatives on the right who come out against Netanyahu are perceived as lepers and suffer intolerable pressures – we will continue so see phenomena like the Yamina party in the Knesset.

Here we should cool the enthusiasm of leftists who believe that the failure to pass the law has finally exposed the injustice of the occupation and the existence of two legal systems in the West Bank, and that this will lead to the missing public debate over the occupation. But the occupation will not end as a result of a vote whose motivation is pure Machiavellian.

The failure of those on the right who came out against Netanyahu is not fair. Without spading criticism of each of the individuals mentioned above – there is nothing worse than the despicable incitement machine of Netanyahu and his audience.

There is also no limit to the cynical disruption: Even if one accepts the repulsive and racist syntax that implies that dependence on Arab MKs is indecent – the opposition itself depends on the Joint List – a party for which Palestinian nationalism occupies a greater element in its politics compared with the UAL.

The opposition manages to hurt the government only in places where the largely Arab Joint List dictates: the Citizenship Law, and now, the law to extend the apartheid in the West Bank.

It’s possible that Gideon Sa’ar understands this painful failure. Leftist members of the coalition are suspicious of his motivation to make such a big to-do over of the law in question.

It’s hard to believe that Sa’ar, after all the bad blood with the Netanyahu family, would join Netanyahu before the election and bring down the political project that he worked so hard and so patiently to build.

But at the end of three years during which an insane and toxic political crisis has taken hold in Israel and isn’t letting go, we’ve seen it all, and will continue to do so. Perhaps even a government in which Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and Joint List MK Ayman Odeh serve together.

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