Naftali Bennett, leader of the small right-wing Yamina party, announced on Sunday evening that he was working towards a coalition agreement with Yair Lapid, leader of the center party Yesh Atid, to join a new government.
In a prime-time address on Sunday, Bennett told the Israelis he was joining the new administration to prevent a fifth ballot and “save the country from the spin”.
“After four elections and another two months, it has been proven to all of us that there simply cannot be a right-wing government led by Netanyahu. It is either a fifth election or a unity government,” said Bennett.
He rejected proposals that the coalition, which would include a wide range of parties, would be a left-wing government, instead appreciating the willingness of potential partners in the coalition to allow him to become Israel’s leader.
“The left is making difficult compromises so that I can … become prime minister,” he said, adding, “This government is not going to withdraw, surrender territory, nor will it be afraid of launching a military operation if necessary.”
Netanyahu reminded the Israelis that Bennett had said before the March elections he would not sit in a Lapid-led government and said his right-wing rival’s principles were not the weight of a feather.
Bennett tried to pull off the “deception of the century,” said Netanyahu.
It is widely expected that if a settlement were reached, the prime minister’s position would rotate, with Bennett first and Lapid second.
It’s an unusual arrangement made unique by the fact that Bennett’s party only won seven seats in the last election. But his party became one of the kingmakers in Israeli politics when both Netanyahu and the “change” bloc tried to woo Bennett and needed his seven seats to get closer to the 61-seat majority that was for the formation of a government in the Knesset was required, the Israeli parliament.
The “Change” coalition will likely be made up of parties from right to left in Israeli politics, but it would almost certainly need some form of outside support to hit the 61-seat threshold. This support could come from outside the government, such as one of the Arab parties, most likely the Islamist United Arab List, led by Mansour Abbas.
Lapid must now make and sign formal coalition agreements with all parties before announcing his coalition first to the Israeli president and then to the Knesset spokesman.
Parliament will then have a week to vote on the coalition agreements before the new government and a new Israeli prime minister can be sworn in.
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