Naftali Bennett has found himself at the same crossroads as many other Israeli prime ministers. On the one hand, he wants to survive; on the other, he knows that the struggle is futile. The price he has been forced to pay since the Knesset returned from its recess after Passover was too high and has cast a heavy shadow over his ability to remain politically relevant. The conclusion he reached was the necessary one, but he reached it too late.
Bennett’s agreement with Foreign Minister and Prime Minister-designate Yair Lapid prevents Bennett from being part of the effort to establish an alternative right-wing government in the current Knesset under opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. There is very little chance of Bennett going back on his word to Lapid, who is set to take on the role of caretaker premier in a transitional government next week. That doesn’t mean elements in the Yamina and New Hope parties will have the same sense of obligation and refrain from acting to establish such a right-wing government. Interior Minister and senior Yamina member Ayelet Shaked has already made clear that she intends to do just that. Should Justice Minister and New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar or other elements of his party join the effort, this could actually happen.
Beyond the specific words that were said, the joint statement from Bennett and Lapid sends the message that even if the two leaders run in different parties in the election, they are now members of the same political camp. After violating his central campaign promise not to join a government with the Ra’am Party and Lapid, Bennett explained one year ago that he had been left with no other choice, though he would have preferred a right-wing government. Now, one year later, that same option is now his last option. Bennett prefers to crown Lapid premier if doing so means preventing Netanyahu from returning to power. He prefers another election campaign, something he has warned would be a great catastrophe for the state, to seeing Netanyahu make a comeback.
This will be Israel’s fifth election campaign in three years. It will be held under the same conditions in which the last four elections were held. Knesset members have made no effort to change the electoral system in a way that ensures a different outcome and a clear winner. The outgoing coalition has dragged the political system, which was already deteriorating, as far down as it can go. If up until the current government, it would have been unrealistic for the head of a small party to demand to serve as the head of a major ministry, such a demand for the role of premier no longer seems out of line.
Ideology and values, which had already suffered significant damage, have now given way to government jobs. The extortion records broken by this government are nothing compared to what we will see from politicians in the next government.
Mati Tuchfeld is Israel Hayom’s senior political correspondent.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.