Who could replace Benjamin Netanyahu after the next election?

#8 - The opposition: Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid

Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett
(photo credit: REUTERS)
They first challenged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013, when the bond they made forced him to include both their parties in his governing coalition. Now, Yesh Atid-Telem leader Yair Lapid and Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett might not be united, but in the opposition, they are both working to bring Netanyahu’s government down.
Both Lapid and Bennett hope to replace Netanyahu as prime minister after the next election. But Lapid must first thwart an internal challenge from his friend-turned-critic MK Ofer Shelah, and Bennett must work to hold on to the large number of mandates that have come his way in the polls without losing them on the way to the ballot box.
Unlike Lapid, who aimed high from the moment he entered politics, Bennett has, until now, supported Netanyahu for prime minister in past elections. The next election will be the first in which Bennett runs against him.
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Preparing for the face-off against Bennett, Netanyahu hired Bennett’s former strategist Moshe Klughaft and wooed religious-Zionist figures Effi Eitam and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli. When the race comes, Bennett will try to highlight how Netanyahu is perceived as disconnected from the people, while he is seen as a leader who feels the nation’s pain.
Netanyahu and Bennett have in common their service in elite IDF units, their English and their understanding of both the economy and Jewish history going back to the Bible.
If Netanyahu has attributes of King Saul, Bennett can be compared to King David, his successor who the paranoid Saul was obsessed with harming. Saul, who was from the tribe of Benjamin, eventually gave way to David, but with Netanyahu and Bennett, that remains far from a foregone conclusion.
Bennett’s popularity has soared during the coronavirus pandemic. The ‘traffic light’ plan rolled out by the government’s coronavirus commissioner last week was presented by Bennett almost six months ago. At the time, Netanyahu refused to even hear about it. Unlike the Right, which traditionally focused on issues relating to the settlements and sovereignty over the West Bank, Bennett has hammered consistently away at Netanyahu’s failure to take the basic steps needed to fight COVID-19, like protecting seniors, doing enough testing and ensuring people can go back to work. He has warned that giving away money is not an economic plan, and accused the government of mortgaging Israel’s future.
Even though no election has been set, Bennett has been crisscrossing the country meeting potential voters. He intends to open Yamina to centrists, secular candidates, haredim (ultra-Orthodox) and even Zionist non-Jews. In an effort to woo those voters and keep the focus on the million Israelis who are not employed, Bennett made a point of not taking center stage in criticizing Netanyahu when he gave up his effort to apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria.
That is all part of Bennett’s strategy for defeating Netanyahu, and it has helped Yamina rise in the polls, putting its leader for the first time in reach of the Prime Minister’s Office.
One possibility if they keep on growing in support is that after the next election, Lapid and Bennett will rotate in the Prime Minister’s Office. If that happens, the bond they formed seven years ago will be remembered as a catalyst for history.