Netanyahu Era Looks Set to End as Rival Bennett Joins ‘Change’ Bloc

© AFP/File Menahem KAHANA
AFP

Right-wing party leader Naftali Bennett announced he plans to join Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in a unity government that will unseat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in office and see a motley coalition formed between right-wing, centrist and leftist parties.

“There are still plenty of obstacles in the way of the formation of the new government,” Lapid said during a faction meeting on Monday according to a translation of his remarks by the Times of Israel. “That’s our first test. To see if we can find smart compromises in the coming days to achieve the greater goal.”

He went on to say despite this, Israel would be ushered into a “new era” within the week.

“Suddenly it will be quieter, ministers will go to work without inciting, without lying, without trying to instill fear all the time,” he said.

The proposed government would see a rotational premiership in which Bennett, the last election’s kingmaker, would serve as prime minister for the first two years and Lapid for the following two.

Shortly after Bennett’s announcement on Sunday Netanyahu charged the Yamina chief of implementing “the fraud of the century,” by reneging on a pledge he made prior to the election that Lapid would never be prime minister.

“There is not a person in the land who would have voted for you had they known,” Netanyahu said, addressing Bennett.

He went on to say it wasn’t too late and a strong right-wing government could be formed with Gideon Sa’ar, Netanyahu and Bennett in rotational premiership. Sa’ar, Netanyahu’s longtime rival who defected from Likud to form the New Hope party, said however, that he wouldn’t agree to such a deal.

Bennett has vowed not to allow the country to go to a fifth round of elections in two and a half years. But according to Netanyahu,  the reason is “because he knows he’ll be wiped off the political map; he won’t clear the threshold. He only cares about himself.”

If Lapid’s mandate ends on Wednesday without a deal, it is likely the country will head to the ballot again.

He went on to ask if the prospective government’s leftwing partners, namely Meretz and Labor, would do to combat Hamas in Gaza and Iran.

“What impact will that have on Israel’s deterrent capability? How will we look to our enemies? What will they say in Iran and Gaza? What will they do in Iran and Gaza? What will they say in the corridors of the administration in Washington?

“They wholeheartedly support that dangerous nuclear agreement. They’ll fight Hamas? They depend on the votes of [Arab MKs Ahmad] Tibi and [Ayman] Odeh,” he said, adding that it was a “joke.”

 

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