To Fend Off Netanyahu, Lapid and Bennett Can't Waste Energy on Internal Squabbles

The reason that the complex task of creating a new coalition came to fruition is Benjamin Netanyahu. Its members will now need all the strength they can muster to face off an opposition leader like him

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Naftali Bennett, left, speaking to Yair Lapid during a special session of the Knesset on Wednesday.
Naftali Bennett, left, speaking to Yair Lapid during a special session of the Knesset on Wednesday.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN - AFP
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

Two daunting obstacles emerged on the path to a new coalition government on a nerve-racking Wednesday.

There was the battle between Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli and Ayelet Shaked of Yamina over a spot on the Judicial Appointments Committee as well as the dissapointing offer made to United Arab List (as time goes on, it becomes more apparent how the Kaminitz law, which cracks down on construction violations, has been irking the Arab community even more than the nation-state law, and how strongly the community desires to have it repealed). At the end of the day, however, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid announced his success in forming a coalition.

These disagreements were destined to be resolved. The reason for that is the same one that made Israel go through four rounds of elections over the past two years and mired the country in crazy political chaos. The reason is Benjamin Netanyahu.

All of the players are heading onto the large and scary political playing field, from which there is no escape and which leaves them exposed, to replace Netanyahu. They had to go onto the field, even if some of them lack the cleats or knee pads they so badly wanted.

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and his colleague Shaked didn’t really want to put themselves in the position of facing another election or the humiliation of returning to the orbit of Netanyahu, their abusive political godfather. Meanwhile, Mansour Abbas and his United Arab List wouldn’t have done better elsewhere – even if Netanyahu drove them crazy with the suggestion that he could give them more, and even though some in Mansour’s party admire the prime minister.

Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich had already proven that no racist government would be formed with the support of Arabs – no matter who or what they were and no matter how tempting the prime minister’s pitch.

With all of the inflexibility in the last stretch of the negotiations, anyone with no alternative has only so much ammunition in the drawer – and even those are suspected to be just for a cap gun. Such was the case with the United Arab List.

New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar and Yair Lapid never budged an inch the whole way, and there they stayed. Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, who believes Netanyahu brutally sabotaged him, wouldn’t blink. And beyond her loathing of the prime minister, Labor’s Michaeli, who pulled off one of the most impressive political feats here and rightly fought for her seat at the table until the last moment, knows she has no prospect of being a cabinet minister in another government (which anyway doesn’t exist).

In the end, the mutual loathing of Netanyahu, the lack of trust in him and especially the lack of an alternative for a considerable portion of the players were sufficiently strong reasons to join in forming a government – despite the pressures, despite the difficulties, despite the disagreements. The high point for this government will be its very coming into existence.

Its creation will be of historic proportions. From that point on, it will be relegated to a more mundane, difficult and rather bitter fate. From that point, it will somehow have to function while the ideological wings of the coalition – first and foremost the right-wing representatives – try to prove to their voters that they are not suckers.

That drive motivates Ayelet Shaked to fight to be involved in the appointment of judges. She needs to show that she remains right-wing not only to her base but more importantly to herself. She needs to prove to them and to herself that she is committed to changes in the judicial system – that object of the right wing’s hatred during the Netanyahu era.

In the new constellation of forces, she might be even more hawkish than when she served as justice minister under Netanyahu, when she essentially maintained an atmosphere of cooperation with the State Prosecutor’s Office, the attorney general and the Supreme Court, even as she pushed for the appointment of several conservative judges.

The concessions made by Lapid and center-left representatives en route to this new government are admirable. They reflect a commitment to purpose. The members of this government will need a lot of strength in the face off an opposition leader like Netanyahu. It would be a pity to waste it over internal squabbles and arm-twisting.

Good luck.

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