The most annoying phenomenon witnessed since the 2021 election (hopefully not the 2021 election Part 1) is the rise of leaders of small parties with a defective ability to assess the political reality. Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett, who only a year and a half ago failed to pass the electoral threshold, and Gideon Sa’ar, for whom political pundits prophesied a double-digit number of Knesset seats and who finished with six, want to be prime ministers.
It doesn’t work that way. It’s unfeasible for a prime minister with six or seven seats. The faction that must form the government is, if not the largest, at least the second largest. The time has come for Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid to form a government. The voters have had their say, and as always they have said contradictory things: On the one hand, they gave a majority to the “bloc for change,” in which Yesh Atid is the biggest party, and on the other hand, they brought the far-right Kahanists into the Knesset.
Lapid and I have had quite a few disputes in the past. But Lapid must be given what he deserves: He made a mistake in 2013, when not only did he join the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he also forced him to bring in Bennett, and refused to form a government with the “Zoabis” (a derogatory term for the Arab MKs).
It should be said to his credit that he learns from mistakes and demonstrates leadership: Since the 2015 election he has consistently refused to join a Netanyahu government, and gave up the rotation promised to him by Kahol Lavan’s Benny Gantz, to enable Gantz to form a government. When Gantz betrayed his voters and joined the Netanyahu government, Lapid stuck to his principles and refused to follow suit, even at the cost of a split in Kahol Lavan.
Lapid’s understanding that it’s impossible to replace a government without the Knesset representatives of the Arab public, and his preservation of the bloc in the most recent election campaign, justifiably caused the voters to reward him, and they want him as prime minister.
But they aren’t the only voters. Another faction elevated Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben Gvir and the homophobic party Noam. Since 1988 there have been no Kahanists in the Knesset; Smotrich was always afraid to run on his own and stuck like a leech to other parties. Smotrich talks about confronting the Palestinians with “Joshua’s choice” – in other words, a choice between refugee status, slavery or death. That isn’t a secret, it’s said openly.
To oppose the normalization of Smotrich and his Kahanist friends, there must be a coalition that will push them to the back. It’s no longer a question of “Anyone but Bibi,” but of an “Anyone but Smotrich” government. That means cooperation among all the factions that are unwilling to serve with neo-Nazis.
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I’m far from enthusiastic about Bennett and Sa’ar, who are members of the far right and aren’t my cup of tea. But even Bennett opposed Ben Gvir and his ilk when he refused to let them join his party. Cooperation with Netanyahu, without which Religious Zionism would probably not have passed the electoral threshold, is cooperation with Smotrich, Ben Gvir and Noam chairman Avi Maoz.
Sa’ar, who demonstrated courage when he left Likud, and Bennett too, are being asked to moderate their ambitions, even if only temporarily. If they care about the fate of the homeland, they must recommend Lapid to form the government, and send Netanyahu home. Both have already said everything that should be said about him.
They must follow the path of Lapid, who promised that “In order to form a government of change, we would be willing to make painful concessions.” Surrendering to Netanyahu now would turn them into footnotes in Israel’s process of collapse.
Prove that you are worthy of the votes you were given. Prove that it’s possible to be both Israeli and right-wing, without hanging around with lepers. Choose love of country rather than hunger for power. It’s on you.