Over the weekend, the heads of Israel’s so-called “pro-change” camp were working overtime, trying to get coalition talks started, even before one of them was tasked by President Reuven Rivlin to do so.
There is only one problem with this effort: It has no legs to stand on.
Unlike the right-wing bloc, headed by Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the change-touting center-left is not really a “bloc.” It may be bigger—61 Knesset seats to 59—but it has nothing really holding it together, other than a shared animosity towards Netanyahu.
It is very clear that once it achieves its goal of removing Netanyahu from power, the center-left bloc will disintegrate back into a group of parties with ideologies stretching from the conservative right, through the liberal left, to Ra’am and the Joint Arab List—a group bonded by nothing tangible.
Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, who understood that some voters are averse to him, made the choice not to take on Netanyahu head-on during the election campaign, but with the elections decided—or undecided—he no longer has a reason to hide.
Despite his party’s mediocre performances in the polls, Lapid is now trying to make the most of the poor showing by everyone else in the center-left bloc, including New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar on the left, to cement his position as the leader of the bloc and the one who will receive the mandate to form a coalition on its behalf.
Lapid heads into these talks with a clear advantage, as (with the exception of Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, who has yet to decide where his allegiances lie) the other parties in the center-left bloc—Labor, Meretz, Blue and White, Yisrael Beiteinu, New Hope, the Joint Arab List and Ra’am—are obligated to endorse him as the next prime minister.
This only underscores Sa’ar’s crushing defeat, as the would-be kingmaker has been reduced to tagging along behind Lapid, all because he pledged not to join a government led by Netanyahu.
Lapid, Sa’ar and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman know that the Israeli public deserves better than the kind of government the current makeup of the center-left bloc will produce. It is their hatred for Netanyahu that has replaced any rationale, especially when you consider that if Lapid fails to form a coalition, they will dig in their heels and refuse to join Netanyahu, dragging Israel into its fifth elections in two years.
This much is also true of Bennett. Does anyone think that those who voted for Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beiteinu, the Joint Arab List, Labor or Meretz imagined a government headed by the leader of the right-wing Yamina party?
When Sa’ar broke away from Likud, he never said that he despises Netanyahu personally—only that after leading Israel to four election campaigns, the prime minister was perpetuating political instability. This suggests that there is a way for Sa’ar to walk back his election campaign without completely losing face.
It would therefore be very strange if Sa’ar is the one whose actions result in yet another election, when all along he had the option to join a government that reflects his political beliefs.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.