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Lapid Seeks Broad Influence In Coalition Talks

Yair Lapid with his mouth shut.

Yair Lapid with his mouth shut.

JERUSALEM – According to Israel’s Channel 2 News, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told some of his close political confidants this week that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not accede to nearly all of Yesh Atid’s demands, the party will refuse to join the new government coalition and will actively seek new elections within eighteen months with the goal of replacing Netanyahu.

“I’m not sure I’ll be in the coalition,” Lapid allegedly said to his political intimates. “I might lead the opposition. Netanyahu will impose financial cutbacks that will hurt the middle class. In a year and a half, I’ll replace him. That’s what my advisers think, too.”

A high-ranking member from Likud-Beiteinu told Haaretz earlier this week that Lapid, who has no prior political experience, had “become drunk with power and is convinced that now he is the one running the country.”

Several Israeli newspapers reported that the coalition talks, which began this week and could stretch into March, highlighted intransigent political terminologies. Maariv said that Yesh Atid and Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) have been working in tandem on several key domestic issues, beginning with the controversial universal draft issue. Both parties are also said to be coordinating their positions to prevent a scenario where they would be left out of the new coalition in favor of the haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism parties.

According to sources in the religious Israeli media, Bennett was chided by several well-known religious Zionist rabbis for being “too close” to the secular-oriented Yesh Atid Party. One of the rabbis warned that if Bennett went too far on issues like the universal draft law without consulting rabbinic authorities, his “political career would quickly come to an end.”

It was also reported that religious Zionist rabbinic leaders met with representatives from the Lithuanian and chassidic yeshiva world this week in order to forge a compromise that would increase the number of haredim performing national service (Sherut Leumi) and optional army service. This would permit Netanyahu to create a stable coalition with haredi, religious Zionist and perhaps several secular political entities.

Last Sunday Netanyahu urged all of the major political factions to set aside their political differences in order to create a large unity government that would be able to tackle the nation’s pressing military challenges on Syria, Iran and Lebanon, as well as the growing number of domestic issues facing Israel.

While the 48 newly elected Knesset members checked out their new surroundings, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin expressed concern about the quality of the nineteenth Knesset’s representatives. Rivlin told a local newspaper that a number of Knesset members who are serving in the current (and outgoing) Knesset did not take their jobs seriously enough and, in some cases, did not possess the “intellectual capacity” to understand the lawmaking process.

The coalition talks, which are taking place in the Kfar Maccabiah Hotel & Suites in Ramat Gan, have also highlighted a new phenomenon, according to Likud-Beiteinu’s coalition negotiators. One of the negotiators interviewed on Kol Yisrael claimed that for the first time, the various political factions were not throwing their campaign platforms into the wind and were actually “trying to fulfill the promises made to their electorate.”

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