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Lapid-Bennett Alliance Holds Firm in Talks Over New Israeli Government

Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid and Naftali Bennett of HaBayit HaYehudi are holding firm as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assembles his new government, writes Mazal Mualem.
A combination photo shows Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on January 21, 2013 and Naftali Bennett (R), leader of the Bayit Yehudi party, in Tel Aviv January 20, 2013. Netanyahu made an election-eve appeal on Monday to wavering supporters to "come home", showing concern over a forecast far-right surge that would keep him in power but weaken him politically.In the last stretch of a largely lacklustre campaign that could produce the most hardline government in Israel's history, Netanyah
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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had a significant role in evoking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's image as the Israeli politician who is most likely to cave in under pressure. For years, he used to portray him as panicky, using very graphic descriptions about the beads of sweat rolling down his face whenever he came across complex and stressful situations. "Don't touch Bibi, he'll ruin it for himself," Sharon derisively remarked about his Likud Party opponent, oftentimes being in the right.

For years such tales haunted Netanyahu until they dissipated. This is perhaps owing to the fact that Sharon and his associates are no longer in the loop and cannot continue fueling the image. Yet in recent days, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett — who serve as chairpersons of the Yesh Atid and HaBayit HaYehudi parties respectively — have made Netanyahu run the gauntlet, Sharon style, as part of an orchestrated move to apply pressure to Netanyahu, throw a wrench in the alliance with the ultra-Orthodox, and get both of them into his coalition. This coalition negotiation tactic is predicated on the assumption that Netanyahu will be made to believe that their alliance is unbreakable.

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