Wow! It turned out to be quite a momentous Sunday here in Israel. A few weeks ago, just before the war with Hamas, Yair Lapid was on the verge of forming a government that would include an Arab party, two left-wing parties, two centrist parties, and three clearly right-wing parties—all three led by ex-loyalists to Benjamin Netanyahu.
Then a war broke out. Naftali Bennett, leader of one of those parties, said he could not serve in a government that was not right-wing. The Arab party, Raam, said they could not serve in the government while Israel was bombing Gaza.
I was asked what all that meant on our weekly podcast The Israel Insider. I said it means absolutely nothing. What else would you expect from an Islamic group as we were fighting Islamists? And what else would you expect from a right-wing party while we’re in the middle of a war? I said that more than likely, if the war ends before Yair Lapid runs out of time (his deadline is June 2nd) both Bennett and Raam will return to Lapid and form a government.
That was not prophetic, just common sense—I thought. But I could not find even one Israeli commentator who saw things that way. Everyone said that it was over for Lapid and the “change bloc.” Apparently, they were wrong.
Last night, Naftali Bennett agreed to a power-sharing deal with Yair Lapid. Each of them would serve as prime minister for two years and then switch, with Bennett going first. It was just announced that six other Knesset members in Bennett’s party, much to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chagrin, are backing the deal. All morning Israelis were waiting to see if they would—as it was reported that some were not on board, and if there was more than one defection, it would end the ability of the “change bloc” to get the 61 seats necessary to form a government.
Many on the right, including many Messianic leaders that I talk to, are ready to move on from Netanyahu. After 12 years in power and being under indictment for corruption charges, despite all the good he has done, he has become a bit unbearable. He has driven away top talent from Likud, he’s accused of behaving more like a king than a democratically-elected civil servant, and he is on trial for three very serious bribery and corruption charges. However, his most serious offense, at least in the eyes of God if not the law, was to prop up a far-right, racist party and help them get into the Knesset, thinking it would help him have a few more seats for his coalition. I wrote about that here.
Even in his own Likud faction, Nir Barkat, the wildly popular former mayor of Jerusalem—who has been quiet throughout these four elections—is hoping for Netanyahu to retire or be retired. He announced on Friday that he would be hosting a gathering, sharing his vision for the nation.
Why would the number seven person in a party, while his party’s leader is still prime minister, share his vision for the nation? It’s actually unprecedented. It’s not like we are in the middle of primaries. He is signaling to the Likud faithful that Bibi is done and he is ready to take up his mantle. On a personal note, I am a big fan of the former Jerusalem mayor and I think he will one day be prime minister
I will say this, as someone who felt back in September that the Lord said he was moving on from Bibi, because he was putting his own affairs and his family ahead of the interests of the nation: be careful what you wish for. Some people want Bibi gone so bad, that they may not be paying attention to what they get in his place. Still, I believe this change bloc is the best option we have for now.
If things play out over the next few days as is now expected, Naftali Bennett will be Prime Minister very shortly, with Yair Lapid as his number two. It will be a new day for Israel, and honestly, that’s a little bit scary. I can hardly remember a day when Netanyahu was not prime minister.
If there are two people that I would commend in this whole process it would be Yair Lapid, for putting his personal desire to be Prime Minister aside, at least for two years (if the government even lasts that long). And secondly, Gidon Saar. As I am writing, Prime Minister Netanyahu is offering Saar to be first up in a three-headed monster coalition. This is seen as a frantic act by Netanyahu to remain in power. Under this agreement, Saar would be Prime Minister for 15 months, followed by a two-year stint for Netanyahu. And then Bennett would finish out the term with 15 months. It’s unprecedented and desperate, and quite honestly, stupid.
But Saar has remained firm. He left Likud to replace Netanyahu, not to serve with him. He would not be the first politician to go back on his word…look at Benny Gantz last year. On the other hand, he’s probably looking at Benny Gantz and his disastrous power-sharing agreement with Netanyahu. Saar understands that it would be much better to be the finance minister under a Bennett/Lapid government, than PM with Bibi.
The next few days should be interesting.