The decision by the Likud was made sometime toward the end of last week. Yesh Atid (There is a Future) leader Yair Lapid — who, due to his election success was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's preferred key coalition partner, and who was the first of all potential coalition partners to score a post-election meeting with the prime minister — is moving further and further away from a cabinet post.
It isn't only Lapid's preposterous coalition demands that may ultimately keep him away from the cabinet desk — those can be negotiated and worked around; it is mainly his arrogance. Likud's decision means that Lapid won't replace the ultra-Orthodox parties in the next coalition. Either he agrees to sit in the coalition alongside them, or he can go to the opposition.
The main problem is that Netanyahu doesn't see Lapid as a trustworthy partner. During the campaign, and throughout the last year in fact, Lapid adopted a moderate approach. He made sure to address the issues directly and never got swept up in mud slinging. He even maintained a degree of respect for the ultra-Orthodox parties and avoided making the mistake his late father, Shinui leader Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, made when he refused outright to sit in a coalition with haredim (the ultra-Orthodox).
But Lapid's conduct has changed significantly in recent days. It appears that his sudden success in the elections has gone to his head, as it did to many others before him. His modesty has disappeared; his arrogance is swelling. Apparently he believed that the next government would have two heads — Netanyahu and Lapid. He believed that Netanyahu would consult with him on every move, including the makeup of the coalition. Once he realized that this was not going to be the case, Lapid began making accusations and launching attacks.
In private conversations on Sunday, Lapid made remarks similar to those of Haim Ramon just before the previous coalition was assembled in 2009. Back then, Ramon promised Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni that Netanyahu's coalition would collapse within ten months to a year and a half tops, and that she would then replace him at the country's helm. Today, four years later, Livni is standing in line to be asked to join Netanyahu's next coalition.
The burgeoning partnership between Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi head Naftali Bennett — the existence of which is beginning to emerge from Bennett's camp — is preposterous. It is true that the national-religious constituency that Bennett represents values military service, which Lapid strongly advocates, as a lofty endeavor. But the forced partnership between the national-religious Habayit Hayehudi and Lapid's anti-haredi party apparently cannot exist. Whatever Bennett's personal considerations are, it seems that his fellow party members, his activists and his rabbis aren't about to let Lapid decide whether Habyait Hayehudi will be in the next coalition.