Lapid's Ambition could Save Shas

Head of second largest party may decide to stay out of the coalition and hope for Netanyahu's downfall.

Gil Ronen ,

Yair Lapid
Yair Lapid
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Yair Lapid, the head of Yesh Atid, the second largest party in the new Knesset, may decide to opt out of a coalition headed by Binyamin Netanyahu.

Channel 2's political correspondent, Rina Matzliach, reported Sunday evening that Lapid made the following statement, in what she said was a "closed conversation" held in the course of the last few days:

"I am not sure that I will be in the coalition. I could be the Chairman of the Opposition. Netanyahu will carry out financial reforms that will hurt the middle class and in 18 months I will replace him. That is what many of my advisers estimate as well."

Matzliach said that Lapid has two options, following his success in the elections.

The first is to squeeze out of Netanyahu "very impressive results" in the coalition negotiations, including acceptance of his law for hareidi enlistment almost in full, and the exclusion of Shas from the government. This will involve twisting Likud's arm considerably.

The second option, she said, is the option of laying in wait for Netanyahu's downfall, as outlined in the quote brought above. The people surrounding Lapid are growingly increasingly enamored of this plan, she said.

If Lapid opts for the Opposition, Netanyahu's government will be composed of the traditional partners in the Israel Right: Likud / Yisrael Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi, Shas and United Torah Judaism. Together, these parties will have a very narrow, 61-seat majority.

Lapid's ambitious belief that he is close to toppling Netanyahu and replacing him as Prime Minister - this is his first term as an MK and he has not previous political experience - may thus save Shas from being banished to the Opposition.

The right wing – religious parties in the government will probably be joined by Kadima, with two seats. Shaul Mofaz, who heads the party, does not appear to have any motivation for staying out of the government. The party crashed to its current size from 28 seats in the previous Knesset, and will likely disappear completely if Mofaz remains in the Opposition.

Netanyahu may also succeed in wooing Tzipi Livni's movement, which has six Knesset seats, into his coalition. Livni refused to join Netanyahu's coalition in 2009 and apparently came to regret this decision, as it turned out to be a stable one. She, too, does not have much motivation for remaining in the Opposition. The Labor Party, which has stated emphatically that it will remain in the Opposition, is more than twice the size of Livni's pary, and would likely overshadow it.

Livni's main plank was the "peace process," something that Bayit Yehudi thinks is futile. However, Bayit Yehudi has said it does not object to negotiations, as long as no concessions are made.

Netanyahu could thus wind up with a relatively comfortable coalition majority of 69 seats.