At long last, Benjamin Netanyahu sarcastically also referred to as “King Bibi” after staying in power for more than a decade, is very likely to be dethroned. Naftali Bennett, played his mentor for good and now has a real chance for victory. Netanyahu however is not willing to give up this battle without a fight.
Yesterday afternoon, Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Yamina party, in an unexpected turn of events announced that after much contemplation he has decided to form a coalition with the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, to form a government. The announcement of course caused a political earthquake in Israel most notably because Bennett, who ideologically has much more in common with his one-time mentor Netanyahu, suddenly decided to ally with Lapid of all people. Though there is little to no doubt that Bennett is just as power-hungry as Netanyahu, he nonetheless came out diplomatically during his prime-time address, saying that he wished to get the country out of “spin” and to prevent a fifth election from happening. Additionally, he was smart enough not to accept Netanyahu’s proposal, knowing that his stain could blacken his own record as well. Though the details of this alliance between Bennett and Lapid have not been revealed to the public yet, it is believed that both might have agreed on a rotating succession with Bennett coming up first.
As expected, Netanyahu was none too happy about this sudden turn of events. Just hours after the announcement, Netanyahu released his own statement, berating Bennett for setting his eyes on his position instead of thinking about the situation the country finds itself in. Claiming that Bennett has just pulled off the “deception of the century”, Netanyahu said that during one his private meetings with Bennett, possibly when he was making an offer of alliance to him, Bennett readily dismissed the notion of forming an alliance with Yesh Atid. Seeing what has happened now, Netanyahu called his former pupil a man of “no principles” who could very well lead the country down the path of no return. Although seriously challenged for the first time in years, Netanyahu’s allegiances still run deep within the country and it is unlikely for him to give up his seat without a fight. One thing he is counting on of course is the vast ideological differences between those that have arrayed against him.
This path that Bennett and Lapid have taken is not without its downsides. For starters, Yamina members are not exactly the most compromising folks out there. Lapid and his people lean on the left and so far have shown themselves to be quite accommodating when it comes to a compromise but Yamina members are known to be hard right, sometimes perhaps even more conservative than Likud itself. Its members do not necessarily owe their allegiance to Bennett and at any moment they might go rogue behind his back should they sense weakness. In addition to that, there is the question of Raam and Mansour Abbas who despite everyone’s views would have actually preferred to cut a deal with an established voice like Netanyahu rather than upstarts like Lapid and Bennet. At any rate, a deal with Raam seems necessary for both to form a government and a deal with Arab party within Israel does not sit well with neither the religious right nor the ultra-nationalist like Yamina itself which has treated them like the enemy’s fifth column for so long.
All that being said aside, for the first time in twelve years, the people of Israel do have an alternative option ahead of them. It is not as if this option is necessarily better than the alternative but given what they have seen and experienced all these years, a fresh new face might bring about the changes that in the least would be somewhat different than the guy who ruled for that long. In the end however, it all comes down to one man: Naftali Bennett. Could he actually pull this caper off? No one knows but he sure has tough days ahead of him for now.