Analysis: Brothers in arms – and in disappointment

Bennett and Lapid rise and fall in tandem, even when they're not working together anymore.

Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Several memorable Bayit Yehudi ads from this election campaign featured party chairman Naftali Bennett schooling Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, who was finance minister until several months ago, in economics.
From the patronizing tone of the videos, one wouldn’t realize that Bennett and Lapid were “brothers” not that long ago – unless that person had a particularly contentious sibling relationship.
The brotherhood may not exist anymore, but the two still seem to be moving in tandem, even when they’re not coordinating.
In the 2013 election, both Bennett and Lapid had a meteoric rise, Bennett from relative obscurity to the head of a large party – not as large as expected, but still significant at 12 seats – and Lapid from celebrity status to a political force to be reckoned with, getting a surprising 19 seats, about twice as much as polls predicted.
The two formed their “brothers’ alliance” during coalition negotiations, because both were concerned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t want them in the government, each for different reasons.
Netanyahu couldn’t reach a majority without at least one of them, and was forced to take both.
Lapid became finance minister, Bennett was economy minister, and their alliance had the makings of the beginning of a beautiful friendship, as they cooperated on what Bennett likes to call “the 70 percent” of issues on which most Israelis agree – in their case, mainly haredi conscription.
But nothing lasts forever, and the brothers downgraded to cousin status, as Lapid joked early last year, over their many political differences on issues ranging from the economy to the right strategy in Operation Protective Edge to negotiations with the Palestinians to matters of religion and state.
Then, when this election was called, they seemed to be moving on opposite trajectories: Bayit Yehudi soared in the polls, while Yesh Atid shrunk to half its size.
Now, after the election results are out, it is clear their fates were tied to one another once again.
No, they’re not likely to form another “brotherhood” when coalition talks start.
Bennett learned his lesson, as the more conservative arm of Bayit Yehudi was not happy buddying up with Yesh Atid, and Yahad was founded by Shas renegade Eli Yishai and disgruntled Bayit Yehudi MK Yoni Chetboun, who rebelled against his party on a Lapid-led campaign for criminal sanctions against haredim who refuse to serve in the IDF.
Meanwhile, Lapid accused Bennett and Construction Minister Uri Ariel of corruption – when he really meant earmarking – throughout his campaign and generally implied that settlements cause many of Israel’s economic problems, so that doesn’t bode well for the brotherhood, either.
Still, they shared the same fate when it came to the voters.
They’re both victims of the phenomenon of rallying around the big party in their respective blocs, which characterized the results of this election, and they’re both victims of those big parties launching a targeted campaign against them in order to convince people that a big party is essential to clinch the premiership.
Likud’s campaign for Bayit Yehudi’s voters began over a month before the election, but went into overdrive the weekend before, with Netanyahu repeating over and over again and in all the media that there will be a left-wing government if right-wing voters don’t back the Likud.
Zionist Union’s campaign began much later, but its slogan (“If you vote Yair, you get Bibi”), sung over and over to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine” – stuck.
Both Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid tried to keep voters from moving to the bigger parties and both failed, while competing with each other for votes, as well. Both dropped significantly in their numbers, as of Wednesday’s results, which don’t include soldiers’ votes: Bayit Yehudi to eight and Yesh Atid to 11.
Thus, while their paths diverged and they’re no longer working together, Bennett and Lapid are still brothers – in disappointment.