Lapid-Bennett Tension at 'Peak Level'
Newspapers Maariv and Yisrael Hayom reported Monday that the political pact between secularist Yesh Atid and religious Zionist Jewish Home is in danger. Various factors have combined to raise tension between Yesh Atid, under Finance Minister Yair Lapid, and the Jewish Home under Economics Minister Naftali Bennett.
Both parties are reportedly looking toward Yisrael Beytenu, headed by Avigdor Liberman, as a possible alternative partner.
Lapid is not doing well in the polls, explain pundits, and the public is dissatisfied with his performance as finance minister to date. But he needs Bennett in the government so that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not let in hareidi parties instead. Lapid's platform is tough on hareidim, especially as regards their enlistment to the military.
Bennett needs Lapid because he fears that without his support, Netanyahu will push the Jewish Home out of his Coalition. Personal relations between Netanyahu and Bennett are said to be rocky, ever since Bennett served as Netanyahu's chief of staff in 2006-8.
Lapid made an apparent leftward turn Sunday, which involved saying he would "do anything" for the "peace talks" with the Palestinian Authority (PA) to succeed and making an implied threat to push Jewish Home out of the Coalition and replace it with Labor. This may simply be his reaction to the fact that Labor recently chose a new chairman, and Secretary John Kerry is hinting at progress in peace talks: Lapid may be trying to brand himself as the leader of Israel's center-left "moderate" camp.
Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted to Lapid's statements by simply saying "We are trying to advance a process of peace and security. I think that everyone who is a partner in the government knows this, and each one can make decisions based on his considerations."
Yesh Atid has made a decision to stop coordinating with the Jewish Home its actions on matters of religion and state. This follows a Jewish Home veto of a Yesh Atid bill that would have recognized gay couples' rights as married couples.
Meanwhile, sources in the Jewish Home said that Yesh Atid is deliberately using the same-sex couples issue to gain popularity in their voter base.
MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) responded on Sunday to Lapid, saying: “Mr. Finance Minister, if you want to play political games - not on the back of the Labor party."
"Whoever wants to negotiate, negotiates. Whoever wants peace, makes peace," he added. "We are still trying to recover from the promises made at the Bar-Ilan speech and therefore we have no business in a government such as it this one, which is not seeking for a political settlement with all its might.”