Far-right Israeli politician Naftali Bennett is due to issue a statement on Sunday in which it is widely expected that he will throw his crucial support behind a “government of change” to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid, who has to form a coalition by Wednesday after the fourth inconclusive election in two years, has joined an alliance of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties, Israeli media reported.
Lapid’s chances of success lie with Bennett, a 49-year-old former defense chief whose six Yamina party seats in the 120-member parliament are enough to give him the status of kingmaker.
Under the future power-sharing agreement, Bennett would replace 71-year-old Netanyahu as prime minister and later give way to Lapid in a rotation agreement.
The various members of the new coalition have little in common other than a plan to end the twelve-year term of Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, who is now on trial on corruption charges, which he denies.
Bennett will issue a statement at 8 p.m. (1700 GMT), Yamina said, when it is widely expected to join forces with Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid party came second behind Netanyahu’s Likud in a March 23 election.
Bennett met with Yamina’s lawmakers on Sunday and received their support for his coalition movements, a Yamina statement said.
Israel’s YNet website said Bennett had told lawmakers that he was “heading for a government of change.” Other media quoted him as saying that Netanyahu does not have enough support for a right-wing government and that a deal with Lapid would avoid a fifth national election.
An anti-Netanyahu coalition would be fragile and would require outside support from Arab MPs who oppose much of Bennett’s agenda, which includes more settlement construction and partial annexation in the occupied West Bank.
It is expected to focus on economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic while ignoring issues on which members disagree, such as the role of religion in society and Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
A Bennett-Lapid agreement had already been reported as close when violence broke out on May 10 between militants from Israel and Gaza and the Yamina leader cut discussions off. The fighting ended in a truce after 11 days.
Netanyahu tried to prevent an opposition deal on Sunday and made a three-way counteroffer to stand aside for another right-wing politician, Gideon Saar.
Under that blueprint, Saar would serve as prime minister for 15 months, Netanyahu would return for two years, and Bennett would then serve for the remainder of the government’s tenure.
“We are at a fateful moment for Israel’s security, character and future when you leave personal considerations aside and take sweeping and even unprecedented steps,” Netanyahu said in a video statement accompanying the proposal.
Saar, a former Likud cabinet minister, quickly turned down the offer and wrote on Twitter: “Our position and our commitment remain unchanged – to end Netanyahu’s rule.”
Netanyahu’s rivals have cited his corruption case as the main reason Israel needs a new leader, arguing that he could use a new term to regulate immunity to protect himself.
If 57-year-old Lapid doesn’t announce a government by Wednesday, a new election is likely.
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