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Person of the year in politics: Yair Lapid/Naftali Bennett
By GIL HOFFMAN
31/12/2013
Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi were fighting over all kinds of civil issues this year, from gay rights to budget allocations, to the terms of the draft.
 
Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi fought over all kinds of civil issues this year, from gay rights to budget allocations, to the terms of the draft.

The Mishna Ethics of the Fathers states that whenever love depends on something and the thing passes, the love passes, too. But when love does not depend on ulterior motives, the love will never end.

It gives as its example of love that does not depend on anything the love of King David for his friend Jonathan, the son of King Saul. Had it been written today, the Mishna could have given as an example of the first kind of love the bond between Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett.

The bond established between the two men following their good performance in the January election resulted in a coalition government that is far from cohesive on diplomatic issues but at least at first appeared to have much in common when it came to matters of religion and state.

The nice way of saying it is that they both had a desire to bring the haredim into society, the workforce, the tax rolls and the IDF, and out of poverty. The less nice way of saying it is that they joined forces to fight the haredim, keep them out of the coalition, take away their resources and their control of the Jewish establishment, and force them into the army.

By the end of the year, Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi were fighting over all kinds of civil issues, from gay rights to budget allocations, to the terms of the haredi draft.

But those disputes do not compare to what is expected in the year ahead when the fight over the US diplomatic proposals begins. Lapid has already hinted that he would prefer a different coalition if it could help achieve peace, while Bennett’s downplaying of the diplomatic process is beginning to look more and more like misplaced complacency ahead of a serious challenge to his constituency in Judea and Samaria.

In private conversations nowadays, Lapid and Bennett sound far from lovey-dovey. Their relationship will be constantly tested in 2014. Lapid’s oft-repeated statement about the Palestinians that Israel is seeking not marriage but an amicable divorce could end up applying to his relationship with his political ally.

But until then, Lapid and Bennett will continue to work together, decide Israel’s economic policies and dictate Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government’s agenda on key issues.

Netanyahu did not want the coalition he built. His wife, Sara, wanted it even less.

But in January 2013, the people had their say, and they gave political neophytes Lapid and Bennett control over a quarter of the Knesset. The power that they gained, the way they used it, and the lessons learned along the way together make Yair/Naftali Lapid/Bennett The Jerusalem Post’s two-headed person of the year in politics for 2013.

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