By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
I suspect that one reason why Israelis so preoccupied with Yair Lapid is because he seems to be the only real winner in last week’s elections. A few others did hold their own, but many more lost heavily. Here’s a list.
Binyamin Netanyahu, though still the likely prime minister, is probably the biggest loser. Last time his Likud got 27 mandates, this time it only got 20 (one more than Lapid’s Yesh Atid); the other 11 on the joint list belong to Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, the same number as last time.
Avigdor Lieberman himself isn’t exactly a winner either. He hardly ever appears in the media while waiting for the legal case against him to start in a couple of weeks’ time. But even if he avoids jail, he’s smart enough to know that the children of the Russians who voted for him originally aren’t likely to follow in the footsteps of their parents. That’s probably why he wanted a joint list with Netanyahu in the elections. Even though he has already voiced his disappointment with the result, he may keep the alliance – not out of love of Netanyahu but in order to fulfill his own ambition. I’m among the few who believe that he may even take his party into Likud to be able to challenge Netanyahu for the leadership. His great ambition is said to be to end up as prime minister.
My first choice for that position, however, after Netanyahu leaves is still Naftali Bennett. There was so much hope for him before the elections that the relatively poor result of his Habayit Hayehudi may qualify him as a loser. Perhaps he, too, will either take his party into Likud or jump ship with some colleagues. (There’s nothing unusual in that: two of the members of the next Knesset elected on Tzipi Livni’s Hatenuah list are former leaders of Labour.)
Which brings us to the next loser: Tzipi Livni. After the last elections the party she then led, Kadima, had one more mandate than Likud. But she squandered her opportunity. Though she herself couldn’t form a government, she nevertheless refused to serve in one led by Netanyahu. Had she done so, she would have helped steer the country toward peace and after this election would have probably been able to form a government of her own. As things are now, she and her little party are pining to join the government – of course, in a much more junior position.
Shaul Mofaz, the leader of what’s left of Kadima – with only two mandates – may, indeed join the government, perhaps even as minister of defense, if Netanyahu, true to form, will deny the post to Moshe Ya’alon from his own party in order to keep potential insider rivals at bay. But a man who inherited a party of 27 Knesset members and now only has two can hardly be described as a winner.
The list of losers must also include Labour’s Sheli Yachimovitch. Though she did much to rebuild the party after Ehud Barak wrecked it, even her supporters are disappointed with the result. Some blame it on her American adviser who’s said to have counseled her not to speak about peace with the Palestinians but only about the economy. Others, with ambitions of their own, are talking about replacing her. Perhaps soon we’ll see yet another Labour leader exiled into a rival camp.
And I haven’t even listed those rejected by their own party: Dan Meridor, Benny Begin, Michael Eytan, Danny Ayalon and many others. That’s politics, they tell me.