Israeli opposition agrees to form coalition govt.

Ruben Hill
June 4, 2021

Israel's opposition leader moved closer to unseating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday and forming a new government after agreeing terms with several parties including one led by Defence Minister Benny Gantz, a spokesman said. "This government will work for all the citizens of Israel, those that voted for it and those that didn't".

The right-wing nationalist tech millionaire Naftali Bennett, 49, would serve first as prime minister in a rotation deal, before Lapid takes over in two years.

Lapid will then take over as prime minister and Bennett will serve as the alternate governing head.

But they were still working to cobble together a ruling coalition that would include parties from across the political spectrum.

The coalition agreement must now pass a vote of confidence in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, before a new government and prime minister are sworn in.

If the coalition is approved, Netanyahu's 12-year rule will come to an end.

Israel's latest political drama adds to the woes of Netanyahu, who is on trial for criminal charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust while in office - accusations he denies. If he fails, he will be pushed into the opposition. "We expect the Knesset will convene as soon as possible to ratify the government, as required".

After losing the job of prime minister, he will not be able to push through changes to basic laws that could give him immunity and will lose control over certain justice ministry nominations.

"Four elections... have already proven to all of us that there is simply no right-wing government headed by Netanyahu". And each ended in deadlock, with both Netanyahu's supporters as well as his secular, Arab and dovish opponents falling short of a majority. That government remains in place as caretaker. Joint List lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman said she would oppose the new deal because "getting rid of Netanyahu and keeping his path is a political mistake". Three of the parties are led by hard-line former Netanyahu allies who had personal feuds with him, while the United Arab List made history as a kingmaker, using its leverage to seek benefits for the country's Arab minority.

Rivlin, attending Israel's soccer cup final at the time, congratulated Lapid by phone, according to his office.

Lapid, 57, entered parliament in 2013 after a successful career as a newspaper columnist, TV anchor and author. Yesh Atid has been in the opposition since 2015 elections.

"I really can't say where things are going at this point", the source said.

Bennett, meanwhile, is a former top aide to Netanyahu whose small Yamina party caters to religious and nationalist hard-liners.

Bennett once led a West Bank settler organization and has previously said he did not believe in a two-state solution that would establish a state for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

The coalition members are hoping their shared animosity to Netanyahu, coupled with the agreement that another election must be avoided, will provide enough incentive to find some common ground. We understand that all the other parties have joined the process.

The Knesset will require a 61-seat majority in order to permit the new government coalition.

The premier and leader of the conservative Likud party, who served an earlier three-year term in the 1990s, has always been the dominant figure of Israeli politics and was close to former U.S. president Donald Trump.

By Wednesday night, less than two hours before the deadline at midnight (2100 GMT; 5 pm EDT), there was still no deal.

For that, Lapid is counting on parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, which have yet to announce their intentions.

Lapid was tasked with forming a government by Rivlin after Netanyahu failed to put together his own coalition following March elections, the fourth inconclusive vote in less than two years. That window was set to expire at midnight.

But after a cease-fire was reached on May 21, the negotiations resumed, and Lapid raced to sew up a deal.

Likud's lawyers yesterday tried to hobble the emerging coalition by challenging Bennett's right to serve first as prime minister, given that it was Lapid who was charged with forming the government.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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