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Lapid, Bennett are 'Brothers' Again

Finance Minister explains he was only talking theoretically about pushing out Jewish Home from Coalition.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 12/10/2013, 8:33 AM

Lapid and Bennett
Lapid and Bennett
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Yesh Atid Chairman, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, lowered the tensions Monday evening between him and his political ally, Finance Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the religious-Zionist Jewish Home party.

Lapid explained in a meeting with his party's MKs that reports of his statements about pushing Jewish Home out of the Coalition chose "to stress various strange political scenarios."

While there is still anger at Lapid over his thinly veiled threat, made in the course of a speech on Sunday, to replace Jewish Home with another party in order to facilitate a "peace" deal with the Palestinian Authority (PA), he and Bennett are still coordinating political moves, according to daily newspaper Yisrael Hayom.

"The diplomatic speech that I delivered expresses the deep commitment of our party to advancing the political process," Lapid said at the start of the party session. "Regrettably, there was a choice "to stress various strange political scenarios.

"The crux of what I said was that Yesh Atid will do anything to advance the process and will not let anyone 'melt it' away."

Minister Bennett reacted briefly to Lapid's explanatory statement of his Facebook page, writing that Israel should "bring down prices and not take down communities." Senior party members said that they do not see Lapid's statement as a political threat or a reason to break the pact between the parties.

However, MK Yoni Chetboun (Jewish Home) was not mollified, saying that "Ever since Lapid failed to take care of the middle class, he is going from one whipping boy to another. One time it is the hareidim, another time it is Jewish tradition, and now it is the Jewish Home.

"Instead of busying himself with impulsive 'spinology', I call on the Finance Minister to address the real subjects, of the price of living and lowering prices," Chetboun added. "But if petty politics are so important to him, he is welcome to leave the government."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also felt the need to make peace between the parties. "What will determine whether or not a deal is reached is not the makeup of the Coalition," he said at the start of the Likud party session.

Speaking at a conference Sunday, Lapid had said, "I am determined to prevent what seems to me as an ongoing attempt to hobble and delay the diplomatic process currently taking place vis-à-vis the Palestinians. If both the Israeli Left and the Israeli Right continue to say, over and over again, the prophecy might fulfill itself and the sides might leave the negotiations table in mutual recrimination."

"That is the easy solution," he said, "and there will be many people, on both sides, who will be happy if it happens, but I will do everything – anything! – to prevent the failure of negotiations."

Lapid and Bennett are often jokingly referred to as "brothers," ever since Bennett's election campaign began referring to Bennett as "a brother" – an expression that reflects his affable and dependable nature, and which is often used in Israel's military, of which Bennett is a senior member.

The unofficial alliance between the two made the current Coalition possible, and left hareidi parties out of the government. Bennett's willingness to sever the traditional ties to hareidi parties helped secularist Lapid politically, while Lapid's entry into the Coalition helped keep out more leftist parties, which is what Bennett wanted.  

Lapid and Bennett quarreled recently over the issue of civil marriage, too. They quickly made up, however.