Benjamin Netanyahu Overplayed Hand in Talks With Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett

Premier Bungled Coalition Talks With Canny Rivals

Buddding Bromance: The two-headed Israeli team of Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett represent different sides of the political spectrum, but have united to refuse Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to forge a coalition. Now the once-mighty premier is staring defeat in the face.
getty images
Buddding Bromance: The two-headed Israeli team of Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett represent different sides of the political spectrum, but have united to refuse Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to forge a coalition. Now the once-mighty premier is staring defeat in the face.

By Geoffrey Levin

Published February 27, 2013, issue of March 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Moreover, the budding partnership between the young and charismatic Lapid and Bennett — one to the left of Bibi and the other to the right — made the Prime Minister very uncomfortable. United around the issue of enlistment reform, the two parties combined have as many seats as Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu list, and together could set the pace of the government despite Netanyahu’s role as Prime Minister. Bibi desperately wished to avoid this, especially since Lapid unwisely stated that he hopes to lead the Israeli government soon.

Once it became clear that Lapid would not yield on his trademark issue of enlistment reform — a concession that would have allowed Netanyahu to bring in the ultra-Orthodox parties and thus diminish Lapid’s leverage with the coalition — the Prime Minister changed course. It’s rumored that Netanyahu considered offering Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich the Finance Ministry. And he cynically tried to peel Bennett away from his partnership with Lapid by offering HaBayit HaYehudi numerous cabinet positions, both to no avail.

He tried to preempt Lapid and co-opt Yesh Atid’s signature issue by putting forth a watered-down enlistment reform bill. But before it was even written, it was already rejected by one ultra-Orthodox party as out of hand, foiling a supposed plan to build a 57-seat near-coalition and offer Bennett a ultimatum: Join us now, or force another election — one the Right could lose.

The surprise announcement that Netanyahu would be partnering with his former rival Tzipi Livni and make her in charge of peace negotiations was a central part of his plan to gain leverage vis-à-vis Bennett and Lapid. It had had the added benefit of potentially alleviating international pressure of on the peacemaking front. But the decision backfired. Polls this week show that rather than being intimidated into avoiding an election, Bennett’s party would gain and Lapid could even win!

With one poll showing that Netanyahu’s list would drop to a mere 22 seats, it’s now him who should be scrambling to avoid a second round of 2013 elections, not his opponents.

Voters are frankly tired of the Prime Minister’s cynical maneuvering. They don’t think any of his opponents are experienced enough to have his job, but they don’t appreciate when Netanyahu insults their intelligence, strategizing about a fourth term and bringing in Livni as a prop for international audiences rather than yielding to the will of the people on issues like military draft reform .

Netanyahu thought he could outmaneuver his opponents by playing them against each other, but the numbers simply do not work in his favor. Had he sat down in his prime ministerial seat and negotiated with the obvious partners, he could have sighed in relief and celebrated his modest reelection.

It’s still not too late for Netanyahu to change course and yield to Lapid and Bennett. Given his survival instincts, he most likely will ultimately do so to avoid a new election. Because if he doesn’t accept his humble victory right now, he may soon suffer a grand defeat.

Geoffrey Levin is a Bologna Fellow and Schusterman Israel Scholar Award recipient at the Johns Hopkins University Department of Political Science. You can follow him on twitter @geoff_levin.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.