Netanyahu dismisses proposed alliance as “scam of the century,” accuses rightwing rivals of betraying mandate by forming “government of the Left.”
Two months after the Israeli election re-run, the fourth in two years, the prospect of forming the next government has been mired in uncertainty with opposition parties floating the idea of a “unity coalition” aimed at ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Naftali Bennett, the leader of the rightwing Yamina party, announced on Sunday that he is joining hands with Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party to form a majority government, ending Prime Minister Netanyahu’s twelve-year reign.
Netanyahu had fallen short of a clear majority in the March 23 election, the fourth inconclusive vote in two years. His Likud-led rightwing alliance secured 52 seats in a 120-member Knesset, nine short of the desired threshold.
The Israeli TV channel i24News reported the move towards a right-center “unity coalition”:
Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett announced on Sunday he decided to join the so-called “change government” led by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
“It’s my intention to do my utmost in order to form a national unity government along with my friend Yair Lapid, so that, God willing, together we can save the country from a crisis and return Israel to its course,” Bennett said.
The emerging coalition aims to end the rule of the Israel’s longest-serving leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, earlier on Sunday offered Bennett to become part of a three-way power-sharing agreement in a last-ditch attempt to forestall the joining of forces between the centrist Lapid and the hard-right Bennett.
In a televised address, Bennett dismissed Netanyahu’s allegations that the emerging government would be a “left-wing” one, saying it would, in fact, be “slightly more to the right” than the last coalition Netanyahu was able to put together, citing a number of politicians associated with the Yesha Council and other Jewish settler groups expected to enter it.
Yamina party leader Naftali #Bennett:
I am announcing today that I intend to do everything in my power to form a national unity government with my friend Yair Lapid to put #Israel back on track pic.twitter.com/nvVmtBn4vy
— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) May 30, 2021
Bennett, who served as country’s defense minister under Netanyahu between 2019-20, was widely regarded as the kingmaker after getting seven seats in the May general election.
Going by Bennett’s statement, he appears to have reached a power-sharing agreement with centrist politician Lapid, who has been tapped by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to come up with a parliamentary majority by Wednesday. Lapid, who’s Yesh Atid won 17 seats, was entrusted with this task after Netanyahu’s deadline to prove a majority in the Knesset expired earlier this month.
The Israeli news channel Arutz Sheva reported the make-up of the proposed Bennett-led government:
According to the [agreement], Bennett will serve as prime minister until September 2023, with Lapid taking over as head of state from until November 2025. Until then, Lapid will be the foreign minister and alternate prime minister.
Benny Gantz is expected to remain defense minister, Avigdor Liberman will be finance minister, Gideon Sa’ar will be justice minister, Ayelet Shaked will be interior minister, Labor chief Merav Michaeli will serve as transportation minister, Meretz’ Nitzan Horowitz will be appointed health minister, Yifat Shasha-Bitton will be education minister, and Labor’s Omer Bar-Lev will serve as public security minister.
Considering Netanyahu’s political acumen and electoral support, it would be premature to rule him out as a power player in the next Israeli government.
Given the divergent political views represented by this new coalition made up of rightwing and centrist parties, the next prime minister may have a hard time keeping the allies together.
The Times of Israel noted the fragile nature of the proposed coalition:
With Bennett on board, and indeed set to serve first as prime minister in a tentative rotation agreement between them, Lapid and his improbable mix of anti-Netanyahu partners from across the political spectrum would appear to have enough Knesset support to oust Netanyahu. However, the possibility of lawmakers defecting or absenting themselves, combined with Israel’s fast-shifting current affairs, means that uncertainty will prevail until the Knesset approves a new government, with a vote on that not expected for several more days. The nascent coalition apparently has the support of 61 MKs in the 120-seat Knesset, so even a single defection could deprive it of a majority.
The efforts to form the next Israeli government come in the backdrop of the recently ended eleven-day conflict with the Gaza-based Hamas. The Islamist terror group and its allies fired over 4500 rockets at Israeli civilians during the hostilities.DONATE
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