Things are not going well for Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. For months, he has taken flack from all sides for his conduct as finance minister.
And, as the head of the main anti-haredi party, he has not exactly brought home the goods to his voters, with the ongoing delays of the civil union and enlistment bills. Lapid needs Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett on his side to ensure the ultra-Orthodox do not join the government, but this relationship is costing Lapid dearly. Many of Lapid's voters do not understand why he has tied his political fate to a party of religious settlers that will not allow movement on issues of religion and state, not to mention the peace process with the Palestinians.
Bennett, for his part, also needs Lapid. While Bennett has been attacked by some rabbis and MKs within his party for his alliance with Lapid, without the partnership with Yesh Atid, Bennett would not be able to sleep at night, out of constant fear of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trying to oust him from the government at the first opportunity, due to their murky personal relationship.
After the first two waves of Palestinian prisoner releases, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talking about serious progress in the peace talks and Netanyahu speaking of making significant concessions, Lapid's attacks on Habayit Hayehudi over the peace process actually help Bennett. After Lapid's series of publicized failures, the Yesh Atid chief is completely harmless as he flings arrows at his right-wing ally and portrays himself as the leader of the center-left camp. When Shelly Yachimovich was in charge of the Labor party, Lapid said almost nothing about peace. But after the election of Isaac Herzog as Labor leader, the issue has returned to the forefront, along with Lapid's political troubles.
The dispute between Lapid and Bennett has seemingly strengthened Netanyahu's hand in managing his coalition. On the other hand, however, in recent months both Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi have initiated controlled bouts of publicized tension that have served the interests of both parties. It is very likely that this is also the case this time around.