Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said in a meeting with allies on Thursday that his potential replacement would not be able to stand up to President Biden.
Netanyahu’s reported pullback comes as his rivals formed a landmark coalition deal to end his 12-year reign this week.
The latest political maneuvers began just hours after opposition leader Yair Lapid and his main coalition partner Naftali Bennett said they had reached an agreement to form a new government and muster a majority in the among the 120 members of the Knesset, or parliament.
Netanyahu also called on his allies to spread the idea that Bennett, the prime minister designate, would not be tough enough to resist US pressure on the Palestinian issue, Axios reported, citing sources.
He reportedly told his pro-settlement allies that Bennett would likely give in to demands from the Biden administration if it asked Israel to stop settlement building in the West Bank.
NETANYAHU THE ENEMIES THINK OF A QUICK VOTE TO END HIS 12 YEARS
Netanyahu also suggested that Bennett was too weak to risk tensions with Biden to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The current prime minister could potentially undermine necessary coalition votes before the vote takes place, which may not happen until next week, according to Axios.
The coalition is made up of eight parties from all political backgrounds with little in common except for the common goal of toppling Netanyahu. The alliance includes hard-line supporters previously allied with Netanyahu, as well as center-left parties and even an Arab faction – a first in Israeli politics.
Even a single defection could put the potential new government at risk, according to the outlet.
Netanyahu reportedly focused his energy on Nir Orbach, who is in Bennett’s party, and said he could vote against the new government.
Bennett in an interview with Israeli television said he wanted to work with the Biden administration but would not agree to suspend settlement construction.
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Bennet is a former ally of Netanyahu and the prime minister accused him of abandoning his principles “to be prime minister at all costs”, calling it “the fraud of the century”.
Meanwhile, the Knesset on Wednesday elected Isaac Herzog the country’s 11th president.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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