PM Bennett and Chess Grandmaster Lapid

Lapid has always been an anti-Torah, anti-Yeshiva, dyed-in-the wool leftist. With his rising popularity,It matters little to him if the government collapses, and Yamina and New Hope disappear. Op-ed.

Alan H. Perlman ,

Lapid and Bennett at first Cabinet meeting
Lapid and Bennett at first Cabinet meeting
Yanir Cozin, Galei Tzahal and Knesset Channel

In the leadup to the 9th of Av, Rabbi Nosson Slifkin recounted in his blog the Talmudic story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza.

In the story, Bar Kamtza had good reason to angry for his humiliation by the party host and the Rabbis who remained silent. But Bar Kamtza’s anger and hatred was so intense and unbridled (sinas chinam) that he pursued a course of action destructive to himself and the Jewish people – involving and inviting in the Romans which ultimately led to Jerusalem’s destruction.

The lesson is that hatred and anger, even if not baseless, should never drive us to pursue a course of action that harms ourselves and our people.

Rabbi Slifkin, a supporter of Naftali Bennett and Yamina, drew a parallel between Bar Kamtza and Bibi. Humiliated and outraged at being forced into opposition despite having secured the most seats, Bibi and Likud, he wrote, responded by withholding support for the Citizenship bill, thereby harming Israel.

Though Rabbi Slifkin’s application of the Bar Kamtza lesson to Bibi and Likud seems fair and well taken, he would have done much better to apply that same lesson to Bennett and Saar.

Bibi’s personality flaws and alleged untrustworthiness may well have given Bennett and Saar every reason in the world to hate and distrust him, and to want nothing to do with him. But politics compels you to make choices and compromises. Bennett and Saar’s hatred of Bibi was so intense and unbridled that rather than forming a right-wing government under Bibi and Likud, they decided to invite an anti-Zionist Arab party and the anti-Zionist leftto join in forming the ruling Israeli coalition.

The ramifications of that decision are enormous. Likud’s lack of support for the Citizenship bill is correctable – the bill can be re-tabled in the future, an alternative bill can be presented, etc. The same cannot be said for Bennett and Saar’s decision.

Israel has always had a very strong taboo against Arab parties making up part of the ruling coalition – so strong, in fact, that the Left never dared to break it. Now Bennett and Saar have absolutely shattered it. They’ve issued a right-wing stamp of approval to bringing Arab parties into the government, declaring such a move kosher. The deed is now done, and cannot be undone. The taboo is gone.

The party they brought in was not just an Arab party – they brought in the Islamic Movement, an offshoot of the Moslem Brotherhood whose long-term goal is the destruction of Israel and the replacement of Israel with a caliphate. Now a part of the government, the party is positioned to influence and even restrict government decisions, and it has wasted no time in flexing its muscles. It is pushing an Arab takeover of the Negev, and demanding that Israel restrain its response should Hamas attack from Gaza.

When Lapid received the mandate to form a government, he was the logical choice for Prime Minister. His party, Yesh Atid, won 17 seats, second only to Likud. Yet Bennett, whose Yamina party garnered only seven seats, negotiated the position of Prime Minister for himself; Lapid had to content himself with the Foreign Ministry, and a promise of rotation to Prime Minister if the government lasts long enough – a long shot at best.

One could only marvel at how Bennett managed to outmaneuver Lapid, and wonder how Lapid let himself be so outmaneuvered. But appearances are deceiving, and in actuality, as will be seen, Lapid completely finessed Bennett and succeeded in getting Bennett to destroy his own political future and the Yamina party, and to severely damage and divide the right–religious bloc.

The Left covers a wide spectrum, and includes anti-Zionists who make up a major part of the ruling coalition and are natural allies of Lapid.

(As an aside, the term post-Zionist is a misnomer; there was no metamorphosis -- they were always anti-Zionists. In point of fact, the Hebrew University was established by anti-Zionist German Jewish and German-American Jewish intellectuals, with the goal of promoting anti-Zionist ideology. They believed that Jews should remain a minority under Arab rule, and even during the Shoah they opposed any push for a Jewish state. It is no accident that Israel’s intellectual elite – writers, artists, journalists, historians, judges, politicos, etc. – all products of Israel’s university system, emerged as anti-Zionists who are overly sympathetic to the Arabs who seek to destroy Israel. A brilliant tome, “The Jewish State – The Struggle for Israel’s Soul” by Yoram Hazony, though very painful to read, thoroughly examines and documents the conflicts in ideologies regarding a Jewish state.)

Lapid is and always has been an anti-Torah, anti-Yeshiva, dyed-in-the wool leftist. His ideology (like Leftists in general) has not matured in the face of emerging realities, and he is still wed to the two-state delusion of a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel, despite the total Arab rejection of Israel as a Jewish state. But his strategies and tactics have matured. Recognizing that Israelis’ experiences of the last several decades have left them uninterested in the two-state product, Lapid maintained discreet silence on the issue until recently and pretends he’s a centrist.

He is not stupid. He knows that we are not yet in the age when “the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid; the calf and young lion and fatling together.” He knows that the completely antithetical forces that constitute this new government cannot coexist for any length of time, that to expect such a government to endure would be foolhardy.

But unlike Bennett, a short-term thinker whose ambition trumps his ideology, and whose moment of glory as Prime Minister will prove fleeting at best, Lapid knows how to play the game like a chess grandmaster – always thinking several moves ahead to ensure a win. Consider the following:

  • By allowing Bennett to become Prime Minister, Lapid gave Bennett an unmanageable task and ensured that blame for the government’s inevitable failure will fall on Prime Minister Bennett, not on Lapid himself.
  • By making himself the Minister of Foreign Affairs during the U.S. Biden administration, Lapid has secured a high-profile position where he will be on the same page as the U.S. and Europe in supporting a two-state solution, and where he will earn unlimited praise and adulation from world leaders and from media here and abroad. It doesn’t get better than that.
  • By ensuring that Avigdor Liberman is Finance Minister, Lapid enjoys the benefits of Liberman’s attacks on the Torah world, while Bennett gets the blame for abandoning the Torah world and harming the right-religious bloc.
  • Most of all, Lapid succeeded in getting Bennett and Saar end the long-standing taboo and open the gates to Arab parties to sit in Leftist governments. And in doing so, Lapid finessed them into destroying their own careers and their parties.

Bennett’s public signing of a promise not to go with Lapid or the Arabs, and then reneging on that promise, exposed Bennett as ambitious and mendacious to much of the public. It may cost him his voter base and his political future. The voters for Bennett and Saar were right-wingers whose number one priority was removing Bibi from power. And in this they succeeded; they deposed Bibi. And from now on, Israel will reap the bitter fruits of that success.

But wanting Bibi out at almost any price is not the same as wanting Bibi out at any price. The Yamina and New Hope voters would likely never agree to using the Islamic Movement to establish a Leftist Israeli government as the price for ousting Bibi or avoiding another election. Most of those voters are now likely experiencing buyer remorse, and those two parties will likely soon exit the political scene, followed by their leaders. What demographic would vote for an ostensibly right-wing party that invites the Islamic Movement to join and establish the government?

Sadly, the same fate potentially awaits Ayelet Shaked. Once a rising star, widely popular and respected, a mover and shaker, she was most of all principled and loyal – despite her popularity she would not leapfrog over her party’s head to reach the top. She would have been an asset to any party. But when faced with her toughest political choice, her moment of truth, she folded. Like Amichai Chikli, Shaked could have rejected the sellout of Yamina voters by Bennett and the party leadership; instead, she joined in. Loyal she is – to Bennett and the Yamina party leadership, not to her voter base and not to the Israeli Right. A real pity.

In the wake of this upheaval, religious Zionists in Yamina are blaming and attacking the right-religious bloc, and the right bloc is fighting among itself. In contrast, chess grandmaster Lapid can only laugh.

It matters little for Lapid whether the government collapses before he gets his turn in rotation. His star is rising and he is now the close tofrontrunner for becoming the next Prime Minister. And if his party and allied Jewish parties fall short of needed seats, they can always bring in the anti-Zionist Arab parties to make up the shortfall -- with the blessings of Bennett, Saar, Shaked, and the soon to be defunct Yamina and New Hope parties.

In the end, Bennett has secured his place in Israeli history. Just as Rabin and Peres will forever be remembered for the disaster that was Oslo, and Sharon will forever be remembered for the disastrous expulsion from Katif, Bennett, (like Bar Kamtza?) will forever be remembered for disastrously inviting anti-Israel Arab parties to join in establishing a ruling Israeli coalition.