The Lapid-Bennett alliance is a win-win-lose situation. The big winner is Naftali Bennett: By joining with Yair Lapid, the leader of the new settlers forced Benjamin Netanyahu to accept him, won legitimacy and emptied the Israeli political center of all content.
A smaller victory belongs to Yair Lapid: By joining with Bennett, the leader of the new bourgeoisie has become a big opponent of the Haredim who attracts anti-Haredi people from all parts of the spectrum.
But the loser is the State of Israel: The Yesh Atid-Habayit Hayehudi alliance is making Israel miss opportunities to deal with the settlement problem. Simultaneously, it intensifies the danger that sovereign Israel will finally be defeated by the Israel of the settlements.
The opportunities that Israel is at risk of losing are three-fold:
Diplomatically – Following the re-election of Barack Obama, Netanyahu knows he must move toward the center and offer the world some sort of peace initiative – one that is based on freezing construction in isolated settlements outside the large settlement blocs.
Politically – After the landslide in the elections, the Likud realized that the settlers have taken control of the party from within, attacking it externally and laying waste to it. In light of this, the thread that connected the moderate right and the far right has been ripped out. Within the ruling party, many people are emotionally ready to rebel against the tyranny of the settlements.
Personally – Netanyahu's troubled relationship with Bennett and Haybit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked has created a situation where the prime minister would be happy to form a government without Habayit Hayehudi.
Thus, a combination of diplomatic, political and personal circumstances has created a rare situation this year in which the Zionist center has an opportunity to slash the Gordian knot between the ruling party and Judea and Samaria. Unless Lapid-Bennett's partnership undermines it.
The danger of their alliance, therefore, can be seen in three ways:
First, the new occupation in Israel is a political one. After the settlers conquered Judea and Samaria, they are now liable to conquer Jerusalem. When the settlers grew anxious about Likud and created a strong settler party, they created unprecedented political strength that subordinated the interests of the legitimate Jewish state to those of the illegitimate Jewish settlement enterprise.
Second, the new occupation is in the mind. When the settlers succeeded in creating the impression that the settlements were a fait accompli, they made many of Israel’s elite believe that the twisted reality in Judea and Samaria could not be changed.
Third, the new occupation is generation-wide. By blinding the eyes of many of the young people, the settlers made them feel like brothers and that the post-Zionist settlement enterprise was an integral part of Zionism. A combination of political, psychological and physical processes has led to a situation in which, 45 years after settling in the Park Hotel in Hebron, the settlers could take control over the state of Israel irreversibly.
Both the opportunity and the danger presented by Bennett and the settlers have been laid at the doorstep of four people: Lapid, Shelly Yacimovich, Shaul Mofaz and Tzipi Livni. In the name of the 42 Knesset members whom they represent, these four people could make Netanyahu an offer he could not refuse: adopt the partition of the country or wither; turn your back on the settlers or end your political career.
But three of the four refused to do what should have been obvious. They pushed their own personal agendas without dealing with the clear and present danger of the country and taking advantage of this one-time opportunity.
By not forming a united front against Bennett, they served him. Now the historical mistake shared by Lapid, Yacimovich and Mofaz joins the historical mistakes that Yigal Allon made in Hebron and Yitzhak Rabin made in Sebastia. With their own hands, the leaders of the center parties are now handing control of Israel to the most right of the right wing.