Diverse group of Israeli parties agree to form coalition and oust Netanyahu

Naftali+Bennett+on+his+way+to+announce+in+a+press+conference+at+the+Knesset%2C+the+Israeli+parliament+in+Jerusalem%2C+that+he+will+join+Yair+Lapids+coalition%2C+May+30%2C+2021.+%28Yonatan+Sindel%2FFlash90%29%0A

Naftali Bennett on his way to announce in a press conference at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, that he will join Yair Lapid’s coalition, May 30, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

RON KAMPEAS

(JTA) — Naftali Bennett, the leader of a right-wing party, accepted an offer from centrist Yair Lapid to lead a new Israeli government, which if the agreement holds would oust from power Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in power.

“We lost a Jewish state 2000 years ago because of internal arguments, that will not happen again, not on my watch,” Bennett said in a press conference Sunday timed for the Israeli TV news hour. “We can stop the insanity and take responsibility. There is no right-wing government. There is a fifth round of elections [in two years] or a government of national unity.”

Netanyahu has been seeking since the March 23 elections to preserve his prime ministership, first as the first party leader tasked by President Reuven Rivlin to form a coalition and then, since the mandatory six-week period to form a government ended on May 5, trying to sabotage Lapid’s efforts to set up a party.

Rivlin handed Lapid the mandate after Netanyahu failed because Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid, came in second in the elections, with 17 seats to 30 for Netanyahu’s Likud.

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Lapid has since then cobbled together an unlikely coalition of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties. He also secured the agreement of an Arab Islamist party, Maan, to support the party from outside the coalition. That numbers 62 seats, a majority of the Knesset.

Bennett’s party, Yamina, got only seven seats, but Lapid offered him the prime ministership for the first two years and several months of the 4.5 years parliamentary term in order to secure his support. Lapid will become prime minister after that period if the coalition lasts that long.

“I will do whatever I can to establish a national unity govt with my friend Yair Lapid, to save the country from chaos and return it to his path,” Bennett said.

Netanyahu. addressing the media immediately afterward, said he hoped to attract defectors from the right-wing parties in the Lapid-Bennett coalition, including among the seven elected Knesset members in Bennett’s Yamina Party, before Lapid and Bennett had a chance to consolidate the coalition.

In that case, Netanyahu said, he would form a right-wing government, and one that would last.

“There will not be a left-wing government, there will be a right-wing government, and there won’t be new elections,” he said.