Amid the chaos in Israel’s governing coalition following a series of losses in the Knesset and a growing list of rebel lawmakers, a sharp message has been sent to close associates of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett: He must immediately announce that he is ceding the role of premier in a transitional government to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, even if those ultimately responsible for breaking up the government are members of Lapid’s left-wing bloc. Lapid is the one who established the coalition, says the message, yet a year into its tenure, he has gained nothing from it. The time has come for Bennett to make room for his partner.
Lapid’s office has denied sending the message. Their official version of events is that, according to coalition agreements, the person tasked with the role of caretaker premier is Lapid if the person who topples the government is a member of New Hope or Yamina, while Bennett will remain in power if the person who brings down the coalition is a member of Yesh Atid, Labor, Meretz or Ra’am. The people who sent the message must have issued the remark on their own, Lapid’s allies say. Bennett’s inner circle, however, doubts this is the case. While Lapid has not talked about it with Bennett, the message has been received, an official at the Prime Minister’s Office said.
The truth is that there is no way of knowing if Lapid was behind the demand. In recent days, a few left-wing coalition members interested in maintaining the government have sensed that its dissolution is a done deal, and Lapid and Bennett are now engaged in a fierce battle to divvy up the spoils. Any time someone in Ra’am or Meretz flexes a muscle, Bennett’s office breathes a sigh of relief. And when it’s threats from Yamina MK and former coalition member Idit Silman or Justice Minister and New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, Lapid pops a bottle of champagne. It’s a bizarre situation. We’re fighting the opposition in the trenches, the left-wingers say, while Lapid and Bennett fight one another, each trying to pin the blame on the other.
The coalition will once again be put to the test next week when Sa’ar brings a bill to extend the application of Israeli civil and criminal law in Judea and Samaria to a vote for a second time. This time the vote will be even more decisive for the coalition, as portions of it are dependent on its failure. Yamina MK Nir Orbach is on the edge of bolting. So is Sa’ar. On the left, Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, Ra’am MK Mazen Ghanaim and even Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas may also leave.
In the back benches of the Knesset, they’ve already gotten the message: There is no government. There is no coalition. There is an election campaign. Everyone is heading back to their political base, some of them after a significant period of abandonment, in an attempt to reap as many achievements as they can before the government meets its official end.
Mati Tuchfeld is Israel Hayom’s senior political correspondent.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.