In this game, someone has to blink first. On the one hand, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's associates say Likud-Beytenu will not agree to exclude ultra-Orthodox parties in the next coalition while inviting control of the next government by Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid.
Netanyahu's associates say he would rather call for new elections than answer to Bennett's obstinacy to stand by Lapid in his demand to exclude the haredim. On the other hand, Bennett's associates say that he will never break his alliance with Lapid, even if that means toppling Netanyahu. In order to prevent going to elections again if a government cannot be formed, someone needs to fold. The big question now is who.
Netanyahu's associates claim that Bennett is working to form a government based around Lapid, without the backing of the nationalist camp that Bennett himself represents. As one who called for strengthening Netanyahu from the Right throughout the election campaign, they say, his recent steps are a betrayal of his voters.
Bennett's associates justify his link with Lapid, saying that Netanyahu's behavior during the elections, and after them, were an insult to Bennett, treating him as an unwanted partner. When Bennett's camp realized this, they had no other choice but to try improve their chances. They allege that Likud-Beytenu's attempts to sever ties between the MKs and rabbis in Habayit Hayehudi and those in Lapid's party are unacceptable internal interference.
There is a vast ideological distance between the ideals of Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid. Among Habayit Hayehudi's potential voters, as a national-religious party, there were likely many debating whether to vote Likud, Shas or even Strong Israel. The same cannot be said of Yesh Atid's potential voters.
Both Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi promised a different kind of politics, but now, like everyone else, both Bennett and Lapid are operating to strengthen their relationship and coordinate the distribution of ministerial portfolios to their respective parties. Bennett intends to demand the Finance Ministry, Lapid has already claimed the Foreign Ministry. It appears that even among the knights of changing the system, eventually, everything comes down to portfolios and the distribution of the spoils.