Coalition of opponents of Netanyahu expected

In Israel a coalition without the incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his replacement is becoming more and more likely. The national religious party Jamina decided on Sunday to enter into an alliance with the centrist opposition leader Jair Lapid, who holds the mandate to form a government.

Jochen Stahnke

Political correspondent for Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan based in Tel Aviv.

Jamina Party leader Naftali Bennett said “there is no majority for a right-wing government”, so he will “work with all my might to form a unity government with my friend Jair Lapid.” Bennett emphasized that he wanted to prevent a fifth election in Israel. Only one of the seven MPs from his Jamina party had previously openly opposed joining a coalition with Lapid. This could make Bennet, who only received around five percent of the vote in the March election, the prime minister of Israel with the lowest election result in history.

An agreement between Lapid, who had received 17 seats out of 120, and Bennett provides for a rotation at the top of the government. According to reports, Bennett would first become prime minister and then fill that post for two years, during which time Lapid would become secretary of state, after which there would be an exchange. In view of the Gaza war and the unrest in Israel, Bennett initially resigned from this agreement, which is now being renegotiated.

Rotation at the top of the government

A government that initially only serves to replace Netanyahu (Likud) requires the cooperation of a total of seven parties. An agreement between Lapid, who had received 17 of 120 seats, and Bennett provides for a rotation at the top of the government. According to reports, Bennett would first become prime minister and then fill that post for two years, during which time Lapid would become secretary of state, after which there would be a swap. In view of the Gaza war and the unrest in Israel, Bennett initially resigned from this agreement, which is now being renegotiated. A government that initially only serves to replace Netanyahu (Likud) requires the cooperation of a total of seven parties.

So far, Lapid and its center party Yesh Atid have concluded agreements with the nationalist party Yisrael Beitenu as well as with the labor party Avoda and the left-liberal Meretz party. Agreements signed with Bennett’s Jamina, Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s blue and white party and the right-wing conservative Tikva Hadasha of former Likud Minister Gideon Saar remained outstanding until Sunday evening. In addition, Lapid would have to convince the Islamist Raam party or other Arab MPs to support his government in votes from outside without the Arab MPs themselves joining the coalition. Lapid’s mandate to form a government expires next Wednesday. If it is successful, the members of the Knesset have to approve a new government within a few days.

Netanyahu tries to use this time to detach individual parties or members of parliament from the nascent alliance, which, even in the most favorable case for the opposition, would only have a very narrow majority. On Sunday, Netanyahu in turn offered Bennett and Saar a rotation in which Saar would first become Prime Minister, then Netanyahu and then Bennett. Saar immediately refused this offer, even if at least one of his MPs is said to have disagreed.

On Sunday evening, Netanyahu spoke of a “fraud of the century” and threatened MPs that “those who were elected with right-wing voices cannot vote for a left-wing government”. This is “a danger to Israel”. Just minutes earlier, Bennett had said, referring to the biblical Jewish mass suicide, “Netanyahu is trying to make the entire State of Israel his personal Masada.”

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