Yair Lapid is the big winner of the recent budget – analysis

When Knesset Vice President Eitan Ginzburg announced that the state budget for 2021 had been approved, Deputy Prime Minister Yair Lapid took a short break from taking selfies and hit the table three times with joy and relief.

Lapid then issued a statement acknowledging Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Knesset Ministerial Liaison Ze’ev Elkin, Coalition Chairperson Idit Silman and her deputy from Lapid’s party, Boaz Toporovsky. In his speech the night before, Lapid even credited the opposition.

“Sometimes, even in this building, it is necessary to recognize that every time one side wins, it is not a sign that the other lost,” he wrote. “Sometimes we lose together, sometimes we win together. This budget is a mutual gain.”

Spreading credit for a win makes one a good team player in most sports. But not in Lapid’s favorite sport, which is boxing. In boxing, there is a winner and a loser, and that’s really what happened in Thursday morning’s Knesset vote.

There was an undisputed winner in the vote, and it is Lapid himself.

Under the coalition agreement, now that a budget has been approved, if elections begin for the remainder of the term, the interim prime minister will be Lapid. If the budget had not been approved and the February elections had started on November 14, the incumbent and interim prime minister would have been Bennett.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar at the 2021 State Budget vote, November 3, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM / THE JERUSALEM POST)

Passing the budget gives Lapid a big step towards his goal of becoming prime minister. The only way to stop it now is a rebellion in the current Knesset that would break the coalition agreement and result in the formation of another government without going to the election before the rotation takes place on August 27, 2023.

Every foreign leader who meets Lapid now knows that he is meeting not only the power broker who built the government and overthrew Benjamin Netanyahu, but also the heir apparent prime minister. The winner of the budget is not Bennett, who already won when he became prime minister in June. It is not Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar who tweeted that the approval of the budget gives Israel new hope and wrote that he justified the formation of his party under that name.

And the winner is definitely not Defense Minister Benny Gantz, despite his attempt to take up the mantle for himself hours before the vote began.

“I see the approval of the budget as a personal victory for me, a victory for Blue and White and for Israeli society as a whole against those who prevented the citizens of Israel from having a budget,” he told his faction in the Knesset.

The vote was obviously bittersweet for Gantz, who would have become prime minister in two weeks if Netanyahu hadn’t broken his deal and launched an election that gave Lapid the title of alternate prime minister that Lapid mocked so much when Gantz held the qualification.

Lapid and Gantz, who hate each other, sat next to each other for hours and hours during the marathon voting, hardly speaking.

Gantz could be considered a budget loser, but if there is only one loser, it has to be Netanyahu, who will now have a harder time returning to power.

Everyone will remember that he stopped passing the budget for what his critics said were his own personal reasons.

And when the rotation draws near and the time comes for Likud to prevent Lapid from becoming prime minister, the party could decide to part with Netanyahu and throw someone else in the ring.


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