Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be ousted after rivals Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid agree to work on unity government

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Naftali Bennett, leader of the small right-wing Yamina party, announced on Sunday evening that he was working on a coalition deal with Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, to join a new government.

It is a seismic event in Israeli politics, and if the coalition is sworn in, it would end Netanyahu’s 12 years as prime minister.

In a prime-time speech on Sunday, Bennett told the Israelis he was joining the new government to prevent a fifth round of elections and “save the country from a spin.”

“After four elections and two more months, it has been proven to all of us that there is simply no possible right-wing government led by Netanyahu. This is either a fifth election or a unity government, ”Bennett said.

He rejected suggestions that the coalition, which would include a wide range of parties, would be a left-wing government, instead paying tribute to the willingness of potential coalition partners to allow it to become the leader of Israel.

Deadline looms for Netanyahu to build new government in Israel
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“The left makes difficult compromises to allow me (…) to become Prime Minister”, he declared, adding: “This government will not proceed with the disengagement nor will not cede territory, nor will be afraid of launch a military operation if necessary. “

Shortly after Bennett’s speech, Netanyahu made his own statement in which he denounced party leader Yamina as a man who cared for nothing but becoming prime minister.

Reminding Israelis that ahead of the March election Bennett said he would not sit in a government led by Lapid, Netanyahu said his right-wing rival’s principles do not have the weight of a feather.

Bennett was trying to achieve the “deception of the century,” Netanyahu said.

It is widely expected that any unity deal would see the prime minister’s post rotate with Bennett first and Lapid second.

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid speaks at a press conference on May 6 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

It’s an unusual arrangement, made unique by the fact that Bennett’s party won just seven seats in the last election. But his party has emerged as one of the kingmakers in Israeli politics, as Netanyahu and the pro-change bloc tried to woo Bennett, needing his seven seats to move closer to the necessary 61-seat majority. to form a government in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

The “change” coalition is likely to be made up of right-to-left Israeli political parties, but it would still almost certainly need some sort of external support to reach the 61-seat threshold. This support may come from outside the government, such as one of the Arab parties, most likely the Islamist United Arab List, led by Mansour Abbas.

And there may not be much to unite such a wide range of parties, except in their desire to oust Netanyahu. With pressing issues such as how to maintain the ceasefire with Hamas-led militants in Gaza and rising tensions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, this could be a fragile government easily shattered by ideological divisions. .

Lapid must now reach and sign formal coalition agreements with all parties before announcing his coalition, first to the President of Israel and then to the Speaker of the Knesset.

Parliament then has a week to vote on the coalition’s provisions before the new government and a new Israeli prime minister can be sworn in.

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