After failing to meet the deadline, Netanyahu is possibly ousted for good and Lapid has been tasked to form a unity government. Given the vast ideological differences between the political factions he needs to sway to his cause, specifically that of Bennett’s, is there any chance for him to succeed or another election looms on the horizon?
On Wednesday, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin asked Netanyahu’s longtime political rival Yair Lapid to see if he could form a government, breaking the cycle of four consecutive inconclusive elections and more importantly to see if Lapid has what it takes to slay the dragon and dethrone Netanyahu after more than 12 years. Unfortunately for Lapid, it seems the road ahead is fraught with perils. For starters, Lapid’s centrist party didn’t manage to acquire the majority of seats in the Knesset. Likud, which has managed to secure more seats than the rest is still a right-wing party popular with deep roots in the country. If it wasn’t for some of the religious fanatics who rejected the alliance with Arab Islamists party, Netanyahu would still be in power. Lapid on the hand, not only will have to deal with the very same religious fanatics and Arab Islamists, he will also need to convince Likud as well, which is completely owned by Netanyahu and his loyalists. In addition to that, Lapid is a former journalist without that much of an experience in the government. Netanyahu on the other hand, cemented his place as an experienced politician whose political career came to an end because of character fatigue.
To secure a working government, Lapid has offered his other political rival Naftali Bennett a chance to form a government through a power-sharing deal. Lapid’s Yesh Atid has announced that they’ve worked out all the details between themselves and the ministries can be divided between the parties. In spite of that, there hasn’t been much of a chatter concerning Lapid’s proposal in Yamina. Experts believe the reasons lies in the fact that the desire to overthrow Netanyahu simply doesn’t outweigh the ideological differences found between these groups. After all, Bennett shared much more in common with Netanyahu than he does with Lapid and if the news are to be believed, he rejected Netanyahu’s proposal even though it suited him far better than what Lapid has proposed to him now.
Having said that, there are a number of factors in play that might give Lapid the chance to bring about the change. For one thing, the coronavirus crisis has made it easy for rival factions to decide their government’s agenda at least for a year if not a few years. The state of economy has been propelled to the top of almost every leader’s agenda in the world and Israeli leaders are no exception. Thereby, questions pertaining to that of Israel’s Supreme Court’s jurisdiction or that of the annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem come in as of secondary importance. Furthermore, if by some miracle Lapid manages to convince Bennett to join him, it would be much easier to sway the religious right to his cause given Bennett’s standing and reputation among them.
As of yesterday, Lapid has about a month to cobble up a majority within the Knesset to support him as the president. Should he fail in this endeavour, the Knesset will have about three to four weeks to announce yet another prime ministerial candidate, which under the current circumstances seems highly unlikely. That kind of an impasse would push Israel for a fifth election sometime in the summer, an outcome deemed unfavourable by almost every single politician in the country. Such political chaos in Israel is almost unprecedented in history. The only instance that comes to the mind is perhaps the time after Solomon’s death when the old kingdom was divided into the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel. At the height of its power, the old kingdom was divided in two and then completely vanished. The situation in Israel is reminiscent of that time right now with one question dangling above everyone’s head: Can Lapid and Bennett salvage the dark legacy left to them by Netanyahu or is it already too late and the doom is at hand?