Enough With the Lapid-Bennett 'Brotherhood'

The alliance between Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett was misguided from the start; it's time for a fair and friendly divorce.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

The story of the "brothers" was bad news from the start. In the 2013 election, Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) garnered the votes of Kadima. Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) got those of the National Religious Party. Kadima's constituents did not cast ballots for Lapid so their votes would transform Uri Ariel into the housing minister responsible for bringing hundreds of thousands of settlers to Judea and Samaria. The NRP electorate did not vote for Bennett so that former Shin Bet chief Jacob Perry (one of the "gatekeepers") would become the science minister fighting tooth and nail against the occupation.

The Lapid-Bennett alliance benefited from the support of the media that hates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but it was fundamentally a mistaken alliance. It couldn't have come into the world and couldn't have survived without betraying the trust that each of the "brothers" received from his electorate.

To this day it's not clear what motivated the prince of Israel's Channel 2 and the prince of Judea and Samaria to fall into each other's arms. But their strange alliance enabled them to sell three illusions: the illusion that the Palestinians are a thorn in the behind, the illusion that the new finance minister and the new economy minister could engender groundbreaking socioeconomic change, and the illusion that by working together the two Facebook stars could integrate the Haredim into 21st-century Israel. Yet three months after Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi formed a government, these three illusions have been dispelled.

As the head of the Israel Defense Forces' Central Command has warned, the Palestinian problem, which has been suppressed, is about to blow up in our faces. As the state budget has demonstrated, the present economic policy – which does not fulfill the promise of the new politics – is clearly that of former Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. And as the dynamics of the "universal service" debate have attested, Haredim are not about to become integrated into the Israeli army and Israeli society in the near future; instead they will be pushed into a ghetto of anger and extremism. The three layers of concrete that ostensibly formed the foundation of the Lapid-Bennett alliance have disintegrated in less than 100 days. All that's left is plaster – plaster that is beginning to disintegrate as well.

Lapid, behind closed doors, is promising that everything is about to change. After he passes the budget and a law that "more equally divides the burden," he will be able to speak his truth on the Palestinian issue loud and clear. If Lapid is not being deceitful in these private conversations, the alliance with Bennett will soon be history or farce.

At the same time, leading members of Habayit Hayehudi are wondering whether they were too hasty to betray the Haredim and whether they should renew the rapprochement between the knitted-skullcap guardians of the Torah and the black-clad ones. If intra-religious rapprochement does indeed happen, the religious Zionist alliance with Lapid will become either farce or history. The strangeness that has always been concealed in this alliance will be exposed. What looked exciting and promising around Purim could end up looking ridiculous just five months later, after Tisha B'Av.

So the challenge now is Lapid's. If he continues to walk hand-in-hand with his stepbrother, he will reach a dead end. It will be impossible to defend the fact that the residents of upscale Ramat Aviv Gimmel in Tel Aviv are building the right-wing settlement of Itamar Gimmel. It will be impossible to explain the situation in which the founders of the secular Alma College for Hebrew Culture are preventing the Women of the Wall from praying at the Western Wall. It will be impossible to understand why the secular Israeli center has become a servant of the religious right and the gravedigger of the Zionist dream.

Therefore, if Lapid doesn't want to become a passing phenomenon, he must recognize that the alliance with Bennett was what is known as a "mekah ta'ut," or a misguided transaction. It created a distorted political situation in which a relatively moderate Knesset gave rise to an extremist nationalist government. It created an unprecedented situation, in which control over many of the country's resources has been transferred to the settlers. It has created a dangerous diplomatic paralysis for the nation. Enough, brothers, enough. The time has come to arrange a fair and friendly divorce between you.

Yair Lapid, left, and Naftali Bennett. Credit: Emil Salman

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