This raises the ancient question voiced by the prophet Amos (3:2): "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
Bennett is an ultra-rightist. Some of his detractors call him fascist-lite.
He is totally committed to a Greater Israel, the expansion of the settlements and opposition to any contact with the Palestinians -- except, perhaps, an offer for negotiations on terms the Palestinians could not possibly accept.
True, Bennett has a knack for hiding his real ideology behind a facade of bonhomie. He pretends to belong to the same social sector as Lapid: White, Ashkenazi and liberal, the Israeli equivalent of the American WASP (Whit Anglo-Saxon Protestant). The small size of his kippah serves the same purpose. (It always reminds me of an admonition a British judge in Palestine gave to aspiring lawyers: "Let your summing-ups be like a lady's skirt: long enough to cover the matter and short enough to be attractive.")
But Bennett really belongs to quite a different sector: the "national-religious" camp of the fanatical settlers. The nationalist part of his ideology is far more important to him than the religious one. With him in the cabinet, any substantive movement towards the two-state solution would be impossible.
If Lapid doesn't care, what does that tell us about him? He chose to start his election campaign in the capital of the settlers, Ariel. He emphasized that Jerusalem, "the eternal capital of Israel", must remain undivided. That already is a non-starter for peace.
When my friends and I first brought up the two-state solution in the aftermath of the 1948 war, we insisted that the borders between Israel and Palestine must be open for the free movement of people and goods. We had in mind a close and friendly relationship between two sister-states. What Lapid preaches is the very opposite: the two-state solution as a final and total "divorce."
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WHEN LAPID chooses Bennett as his favored bedfellow, he implicitly declares that the issue of the Orthodox serving in the army is more important to him than peace.
If he preferred peace to the service issue, he would choose the religious Shas party instead of Bennett. That would be very unpopular, but make peace possible.
Shas is a hawkish party, though it started out dovish. But like its Torah-Jewish sister party, it really doesn't care about anything beyond the narrow interests of its community.
On the evening of the Labor Party's victory in the 1999 elections, tens of thousands of delirious voters spontaneously streamed to Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to celebrate what was seen as a liberation from Netanyahu's (first) government. When the victor, Ehud Barak, appeared on the balcony, the shout went up from the thousands: "Anything but Shas! Anything but Shas!"
A few days later, at the opening session of the new Knesset (the last one I attended until this week) I went up to Barak and whispered in his ear: "Take Shas!"
Four years ago, when TzipI Livni could have set up a government instead of going to elections, she needed Shas. Shas, as is its wont, demanded a lot of money for its clientele. Instead of paying up, Tzipi kept her virtue and refused. The result: Netanyahu back in power.
This is the same dilemma we are facing now. Pay the Shas-man and have a go at peace, or take Bennett and talk about "service equality." (It's just talk anyhow. A law to ensure real equality of military service would mean civil war.
* * *
WHAT ABOUT the real boss? No, I don't mean Sara'le Netanyahu, who also starred at the opening session. I mean Barack Obama.
Without warning he announced this week that he is coming to Israel. Immediately after the formation of our new government. He will go to Ramallah, too.
Should we be happy or not?
Depends. If it is a consolation prize for Netanyahu after his election setback, it is a bad sign. The first visit of a US President since George Bush Jr. is bound to strengthen Netanyahu and reinforce his image as the only Israeli leader with international stature.