Freeman Poritz
Freeman Poritz

Can Yair Lapid pull a rabbit out of a hat?

As the clock wound down on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition-building efforts Tuesday evening, a barely perceptible momentum shifted squarely behind opposition leader Yair Lapid.

Tasked on Wednesday by President Reuven Rivlin with forming the next Israeli government, the Yesh Atid chairman and widely accepted leader of the ‘change bloc’ of anti-Netanyahu parties hopes to turn that barely perceptible momentum into an unstoppable tidal wave.

It goes without saying that it’s an uphill battle, but the tenacious former news anchor and Tel Aviv memorial day master of ceremonies has a lot going for him at the moment. Here are five observations from afar –

# 1. On Wednesday he managed to receive the recommendations of the right-wing New Hope and Yisrael Beytenu, the centrist Blue and White, the left-wing Labor and Meretz, as well as five of the six members of the (Arab) Joint List, bringing his total recommendations to 56; four more than Prime Minister Netanyahu.

#2. He’s demonstrated trust and humility when courting Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett. As the leader of the second-largest party in the Knesset, Lapid has every right to serve first as Prime Minister in the coalition he assembles. But he has been vocal in his willingness to forgo the Prime Minister’s chair and let Bennett serve first in a rotation agreement if it will mean averting fifth elections and providing Israelis with the hope that 4-5 years of stable governance is possible.

#3. He’s demanding a ‘thin’ government of 18 ministers, not the ridiculously overblown 36 that are serving in the current Netanyahu-Gantz government. Whether this demand will fall victim to politician’s egos – we shall soon see.

#4. He’s saying all of the right things in his push for change. He describes the government he’s attempting to form as a ‘national unity government of right, center, and left-wing parties.’ It will strive to represent and work for all sectors of Israeli society. There will be no ‘radical agenda,’ just the formation of a government that represents a wide range of Israeli views, passes a national budget, and ends the endless cycle of elections. As an added bonus, it might even legislate Prime Ministerial term limits too.

#5. He’s not currently on trial for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust as he’s tasked with managing Israel’s most pressing foreign and domestic issues – just saying;)

Depending on who you are, expectations are either high or low. His proponents will say that they’ve already worked it all out. Just a little fine-tuning and last minute negotiating and the Lapid-Bennett government will be submitted promptly to parliament for approval. The critics will point to the stark differences in views between the (at least) seven different political parties that will need to cooperate in order to make the end of the Netanyahu era a reality and say ‘don’t hold your breath.’

One thing is certain, if Mr. Lapid fails in his coalition-building attempts, it won’t be for a lack of effort. But if he can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat, it’s back to the polls yet again in either August or September.

About the Author
Freeman Poritz is currently traveling long-term and observing Israel from afar.
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