After the Naftali Bennett-Yair Lapid government is sworn in on Sunday, the question of its sustainability will hover over it. The assumption is that a collapse won’t come from its left wing. After spending years in the opposition wilderness, there’s no reason for the heads of the left-wing parties, who have finally gained access to budgets and influence, to go back in the woods.
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Bennett will also be in no rush to disband the coalition because he knows that his electorate doesn’t come from the right but actually from the center-left, which is why the moves he makes will have Benny Gantz and Lapid’s voters in mind.
Therefore, it seems that at this juncture the threat facing the Bennett-Lapid government comes from one of the only politicians who can compete with Bennett in his flip-flopping. This is New Hope’s Zeev Elkin, considered a cold politician, intelligent and devoid of sentiment, experienced in hopping from one party to another.
From a Likud member opposing the Gaza disengagement in 2005, he manned the right-wing border of the centrist Kadima, only to return to Likud when Kadima leader Tzipi Livni turned left. From there he moved to Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, which strove to be a right-wing, anti-Netanyahu alternative. Elkin, who prefers back rooms to Twitter, may be the one to seal the fate of this coalition in the coming days, weeks or months, as well as the fate of Benjamin Netanyahu.
What would make Elkin quit after this government is formed? People who know him well claim that unlike most Knesset members, Elkin plans his career with a long view. If he comes to believe that New Hope’s political framework has no future, he’ll find a way to defect and integrate back into Likud.
More importantly, Elkin’s uniqueness, which distinguishes him from other members of New Hope, is the fact that he’s one of the few who understands what’s really at stake. Beyond his key roles in the cabinet from 2015 to 2020 and in the Knesset Foreign Relations and Defense Committee, Elkin was a close confidant of Netanyahu, who respected his diplomatic skills. (Elkin was the only one, for example, who witnessed Netanyahu receiving a call from Vladimir Putin to consult on one issue or another.)
Elkin doesn’t believe that Bennett or Lapid are leaders with similar abilities, and he worries about Israel’s Jewish character under the new government.
Elkin is already dissatisfied with the direction the government that he’ll be part of is taking. Channel 12 News reported that Elkin conditioned the forming of this government on his taking over the combating of Palestinian expansion in the West Bank’s Area C. Unlike Ayelet Shaked, who ostensibly is also worried about this issue, Elkin’s insistence is authentic.
All told, among the people close to Sa’ar, Elkin is considered an independent player, so he’s under observation. It was with good reason that New Hope, Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Bennett’s Yamina published a flattering announcement proclaiming Elkin’s “immense experience.”
They’re right. What he has done twice to Netanyahu and once to Livni speaks to his “immense experience.” Will Elkin surprise us again?