Where’s the money? Yair Lapid asked continuously throughout his campaign. It’s a good question, one that we’ve been asking for years.

Lapid could agree to be Israel’s next finance minister.

That’s where the money is. The finance minister decides how to allocate all government funds. This is the most appropriate position for someone who’s been asking where the money is, isn’t it? So why doesn’t Lapid want it? Because he knows that the next finance minister will be the bad guy. He knows that Binyamin Netanyahu will dump all his problems on Lapid, just as Ariel Sharon dumped his on Bibi (when he held the post) a decade ago.

And Netanyahu doesn’t want to lose the next election to Lapid. The best way to prevent this is to stick Lapid in the Treasury and make him cut NIS 20 billion from the budget. We’ll see how the middle class reacts to that. And since Lapid does in fact want to be the next prime minister, and is not very interested in being the national punching bag, he’s currently refusing to take the Finance Ministry.

And I don’t blame him.

There’s no reason for Lapid to voluntarily commit political suicide. When he publicly announced that he would run for prime minister in the next election and would win, it should have been clear to him that Netanyahu would never give him the Foreign Ministry.

From Netanyahu’s point of view, the idea of having Lapid replace him amounts to treason, a breach of trust and a violation of the Holy of Holies. So the only option Lapid has is to take the Finance Ministry, which he doesn’t want.

So what’s Lapid going to do? He has two options. The first one is to compromise.

Netanyahu wants the cabinet to comprise 28 ministers, whereas Lapid wants only 18.

They could meet in the middle and settle on 24, and then pass legislation that beginning with the next government, there would be only 18 ministers.

So which ministries could Lapid have? Either he goes back to his roots and takes the Education Ministry, where no one needs to teach him anything, and he’d be able to make his mark, or he could form his own senior social-economic portfolio.

But there’s another option.

It’s perfect for him and many of his people also support it: Remaining in the opposition.

Lapid won’t gain anything from joining Bibi’s government.

Netanyahu is conniving and manipulative. He will never let Lapid achieve any real results.

Netanyahu won’t make any progress in the political arena, he’ll ignore the social issues, and everyone will leave feeling battered and frayed. Why would Lapid want to be a part of this? Instead, he could hold steadfastly to his demand for 18 ministers. If Naftali Bennett of Bayit Yehudi remains by his side, then new elections would have to be held. And if Bennett folds (which is the more likely scenario), then Netanyahu will form a government with the haredim, Bennett and Tzipi Livni of Hatnua. I can’t wait to see Barack Obama’s face when he arrives here in two weeks.

Lapid will form a shadow government and will make Netanyahu’s life an utter nightmare.

I wouldn’t reject this option outright.

In the meantime, this game of chicken continues. It will last until the very last moment (March 16). When Obama arrives on March 20, Netanyahu will be bleary-eyed and grouchy and his nerves will be shot. But he’ll only have himself to blame. How is it that he doesn’t have a team of quality, expert advisers? Other than his bureau head Gil Shefer, the only sane person around, he has no one. Netanyahu has to do everything by himself, and that’s exactly how it looks.

Everyone who ever worked with him has moved on.

Shalom Shlomo, Netanyahu’s former political adviser, is now advising Naftali Bennett. Eyal Gabai, the Prime Minister’s Office former director-general, is now Bennett’s negotiator.

Moshe Leon, another former director-general, is now Avigdor Liberman’s representative in the coalition negotiations.

Many people who used to be Netanyahu’s close friends have distanced themselves from him. Everyone who worked with him at one time or another was either sacked or has abandoned him.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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