Cynicism conquers all in the Knesset - analysis

Yair Lapid said that he would work with Netanyahu to prevent Gantz from becoming prime minister, the same Lapid who has said for several years that Netanyahu must go.

Knesset commitee on coronavirus meets to discuss furher regulations, April 7, 2020 (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Knesset commitee on coronavirus meets to discuss furher regulations, April 7, 2020
Yesh Atid-Telem leader Yair Lapid said something that made jaws drop in the Knesset on Monday: He would work with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent Blue and White leader Benny Gantz from becoming prime minister.
Here’s the quote: “Do you think Bibi will uphold the rotation? Because you’re reinforcing the bill with a majority of 75 votes [needed to overturn it]? So Netanyahu has 59 MKs. We [in Yesh Atid-Telem] have 16, and Bibi knows, and I am announcing it here on camera, that at any moment Bibi will ask to cancel this law, we will say yes.”
This is the very same Lapid who has been saying for several years – long before the year of endless elections began – that Netanyahu must go. It’s the same Lapid who split Blue and White because Gantz seriously negotiated being in a government with Netanyahu. Now, Lapid says he would conspire with Netanyahu to keep his former Blue and White co-chairman out of the Prime Minister’s Office, even if it means he could be keeping Netanyahu there.
It’s almost as confusing as it is cynical.
Lapid denied the possibility that his theoretical move could lengthen Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister, tweeting that he has “no intention to save Bibi. The only one who saved him is Benny Gantz. If in another year, after the coronavirus [crisis], we have the possibility to bring down the government, of course we will.”
And if Lapid were confronted with the accusation of cynicism, he would probably point out, as he has in many of his remarks in the past week, that Gantz was elected by people who want Netanyahu out of office and is now forming a government with him. Gantz has been making lofty statements about the need for a government and national unity at this time, when we are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and its disastrous economic impact. But even the many people – as polling indicates – who agree with Gantz’s move might admit that he is breaking his biggest campaign promise and going against his political raison d’etre.
But the Yesh Atid leader justified his “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” behavior toward Gantz in another way, by pointing to the cynical moves being made on the other side of the aisle, conditioning his support for blocking Netanyahu’s rotation of the premiership with Gantz on canceling the laws that would make it possible.
“Anytime Bibi wants to stop the rotation, all he has to do is come to me and say he wants to return the laws to how they were before,” Lapid said. “We respect our democracy, and these horrible and shameful bills must be canceled.”
The bills in question are amendments to Basic Law: Government, which are meant to facilitate the coalition agreement between Likud and Blue and White. More specifically, if passed, they would create the conditions for a rotation of the premiership by legislating into existence an “alternate prime minister” position. This includes having an official residence and not requiring him to resign if he is under indictment, like Netanyahu, even though the law currently states all ministers other than the premier must resign if charged with a crime.
Basic Laws are the closest things Israel has to a constitution. They are meant to be taken especially seriously. It would be disingenuous to claim that MKs have always treated them as such. But this situation is unique in that significant changes are being made to the laws of how our government is run to provide a temporary solution to the specific problems of two men. Namely, that Netanyahu is under indictment but wants to stay in government even when he is not prime minister, at least in part to be in a better position when he is on trial, and Gantz believes the country needs a government and not a fourth election in a row during a pandemic but does not trust Netanyahu for one minute.
Amending basic laws to prop up the coalition agreement means that Israel is getting long-term solutions to short-term problems. Israel needs electoral reforms, but not like this.
Between Lapid’s willingness to do a total 180 for payback, and Gantz and Netanyahu twisting the basis of Israel’s governing system to their temporary needs, cynicism is the order of the day in the Knesset. In a year that made Israeli politics seem more repellant than ever, this was a noteworthy day in the contempt it revealed our supposed leaders to have for their voters and the law.