Based on the final election results, it appears that Likud-Beytenu's campaign against Naftali Bennett worked, but in favor of Yair Lapid. Within Likud on Tuesday night, no one could hide the sour feelings left behind by the shattered dreams of the 47 Knesset seats promised by Arthur Finkelstein at the start of the campaign. Internal party knife fights had already started and everyone who was involved in the campaign was turning on their friends.
But after the crying and lamentation subsides, the political map leaves no room for doubt: Benjamin Netanyahu will still be the prime minister of the next government. The fact that Lapid got more seats than Labor's Shelly Yachimovich, in effect, removed the possibility of a Labor-led government. It is unlikely that Netanyahu will do what Ariel Sharon did in 2003 and build a coalition with just Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid, leaving out the ultra-Orthodox parties. Netanyahu's power base is the rightist and ultra-Orthodox sectors and it is doubtful he will give this up and rely on Lapid.
When Lapid announced his entry into politics, there was fear on the Right that he would be able to move votes from the Right to the Left. When the election campaign began, it seemed this would not happen. Lapid was automatically attached to the Left, even though he did not want to be included there; however in the end, he did draw some seats from the Right.
Netanyahu will have to work hard to bring Lapid into the next government. During coalition negotiations, Lapid will demand a clear plan to enlist the ultra-Orthodox into the military. He will also naturally seek a top ministerial position for himself and perhaps a few other portfolios for his friends.
It wasn't insignificant that Netanyahu's first call on Tuesday was to Lapid. Netanyahu was trying to signal to Lapid that Likud-Beytenu and Yesh Atid will form the main axis of the next government and that other parties will be brought onboard. As things appear now, everyone else will surely join.