Which side should Bennett choose?

Naftali Bennett is approaching the moment of truth. Very soon, the drizzle will turn into a flood, and Bennett will have to make a final decision.

Lapid and Bennett at Knesset swear in 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lapid and Bennett at Knesset swear in 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Naftali Bennett is approaching the moment of truth. Very soon, the drizzle will turn into a flood, and Bennett will have to make a final decision.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will say to him, let’s see you try to bring down my national unity government.
What national unity government are you talking about? Bennett will respond.
The one for which you picked Tzipi Livni to be the chief political negotiator? Tzipi-Schmipi, Bibi will counter. Don’t forget that in the previous government, I let Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres take turns playing negotiator. And what came of that? The game of chicken will reach a new high. In the end, one of the leaders racing full speed toward the other will find himself splattered on the side of the road. It could be Netanyahu, or it could be Bennett. Or it might be Lapid. The only one not worried about this right now is Livni, since she already crashed.
This is the current situation: Netanyahu has found a way to break the Bennett- Lapid axis.
Stage one: Close a deal with Livni (done).
Stage two: Close a deal with Mofaz (in progress – Mofaz needs to decide if he wants to be intelligence, strategic affairs or development of the Negev and Galilee minister).
Stage three: Get the haredi community on board. They will need to accept that the Interior, Housing and Construction, and Religious Services ministries will go to Bennett – and either agree to Netanyahu’s draft plan, or be left out of the coalition.
They will accept the conditions.
And if they don’t, the prime minister will have an alibi to break up this historic pact and go with Bennett and Lapid. But everything will work out. The haredi community without power is like a hump without a camel, or Natan Eshel without a camera.
They won’t have a choice.
And then Netanyahu will approach Bennett. Now you have everything you wanted, he will tell Bennett: You have the Interior, housing and religious ministries. You’ll be able to rectify all of these injustices that you have been enduring for decades. Do you want to make a change? Then make one.
Do you want to fix the real estate mess? Go ahead, do it.
And the conversion process, the religious councils, and all the other things you’ve been dreaming about. And besides, the haredi community has agreed to share the burden in a way that you find acceptable, but not according to Lapid’s plan, with which you disagree. So come on – make a decision. Are you with us or against us? Are you going to stay with Lapid, or would you rather participate in cabinet meetings? How can Bennett justify remaining outside the coalition? His friendship with Lapid? Where did this come from anyway? Bennett will find himself being pressured by rabbis, settlers and the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, as well as friends from the Likud. The entire Land of Israel, 2,000 years of suffering, MK Nissan Slomiansky and settlement leaders will be a weight around his neck.
If you don’t join a government under these conditions, they will tell him, that means you are a Trojan horse whose goal is to overturn Bibi, to divide the national camp, to bring the Left back to power.
The mask Bennett is wearing will be torn from his face. We’ll see how he manages then.
If he breaks down and joins the coalition, that would be the end of the story. A government including everyone except for Lapid and Yacimovich would be formed, and Netanyahu would fidget around for a few years and move nowhere.
If Bennett doesn’t break, that’s a different story. Bibi will have between 55 and 57 MKs on board (depending on whether Mofaz is in or out). He will need another four or six to reach 61.
Either Netanyahu will offer Yacimovich the Finance Ministry and agree to a 4- percent budget deficit, or he will have to scrounge around for four more seats.
And if he fails? Then he is considering – hold on to your seat – presenting a minority government to the Knesset.
Netanyahu would have to face a vote of confidence with only 57 seats in the Knesset. Then we would see Bennett or MKs Uri Ariel and Orit Struck bringing down the national unity camp.
This game of chicken will continue throughout the term. A government will be formed, it will survive a no confidence vote (or not), and will stumble toward the horizon.
And if the government doesn’t last? Then we’ll see.
In the meantime, the royal couple will continue to live in the house on Balfour Street with the entourage, the caravan and the honors. And if Bibi wins a third term, then the ice cream’s on me.
By the way, Netanyahu prefers Yacimovich over Bennett.
By far. His dream government comprises the haredi parties, Livni, Mofaz and Labor.
Of course, he is ready to go to great lengths to achieve this.
Everything he has done over the last few weeks proves once again what has been written about him over the years: The only thing that interests Netanyahu is being in charge. Everything else will fall into place. Give him the reins, and he will do what he needs to do in order to survive.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.