Whether the new government gets going or not, and even if at the last minute Israel gets sucked into a fifth election, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid can be crowned the biggest winner of the 24th Knesset.
After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the first go at forming a government, Lapid flew off to the US and was harshly criticized for abandoning the political battlefield but over the past three weeks he has left no stone unturned in his efforts to form a government, even if he won't be heading it for the first two years.
Gideon Saar was the first to tweet that he is putting his ego to one side, but Lapid has been the one who has actually done so.
Surprisingly, when taking into account that he heads the biggest party in the anti-Netanyahu camp, Lapid announced that it would be Naftali Bennett that would head the government that he was forming, even though Bennett's party only has seven seats, falling to six after he agreed to join the "change" coalition. Even when Prime Minister designate Bennett declared during the Gaza fighting that he was breaking off the negotiations, Lapid soldiered on with talks that seemed doomed to failure and even signed several agreements with some of his potential coalition partners. Furthermore, he did not demand any top cabinet posts for his Yesh Atid party colleagues except for Knesset Speaker, so that there would be less problems and more to offer other parties in the tricky coalition negotiations.
Forgoing being prime minister in order to form the government has caused the leftist camp to finally look at Lapid and appreciate his efforts. For the first time, the left has crowned somebody whose stature they have ignored time after time, as their leader. He relinquished the honor of being prime minister on paper for the benefit of an actual government and has earned great praise. Two people looking on with envy at his latest gambit are Moshe Yaalon who abandoned Lapid at the start of the last election campaign and former close associate Ofer Shelah who challenged Lapid's ability to lead the party.
Whatever happens, and even if a last minute glitch sinks the budding new government, Lapid has pave the way for him to lead the center-left camp. He has proven that there is no need to bring in inexperienced general and that he is capable of doing the tough political work by himself. In the past two months, he has also earned the trust of the left, something that has eluded him over the past eight years.
The only question for next time is whether the left-center camp will have been weaned on the tendency to crown a new leader for each election campaign, and wave respectfully goodbye to them before the next campaign.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 3, 2021
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