As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government expires at midnight on Tuesday, he and his rivals are trying at the last minute to secure an elusive majority, mainly focused on Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and Islamist support for Raam Party.
Although Yamina won only seven seats in the March election, Bennett became a potential king and even king.
As the deadline approached, Netanyahu said on Monday he was ready to step down as prime minister and let Bennett serve as prime minister first in a rotation agreement, a proposal immediately rejected by Bennett, who said in response that Netanyahu simply did not votes to form a coalition.
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Opposition leader Jair Lapid, meanwhile, said he expected President Reuven Rivlin to instruct him to form a government “if nothing surprising happens”
Channel 13 reported on Monday night that Lapid had offered Bennett first to become prime minister in a power-sharing agreement in which Bennett would serve for two years and three months, after which he would be appointed foreign minister and Lapid will take over the prime minister.
Lapid also promises a senior portfolio of Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked (either domestic or public security), as well as two or three additional portfolios for right-wing members of seven MK if a government is formed.
Lapid is also ready to give Bennett’s right-wing bloc within a potential coalition for unity broad veto powers, the network said.
Netanyahu, by contrast, offered Bennett his first candidacy for prime minister in a rotating deal, Shaked and Yamina’s senior portfolio eventually merging with Likud in a future election race.
But Netanyahu also faces a problem, as even with Yamina, he will still have to base his government on Raam’s support outside the coalition.
Raam is key to Netanyahu’s hopes of staying in power and avoiding a fifth round of elections. In a rare move for an Arab Israeli politician, leader Mansour Abbas expressed readiness to support a right-wing government to improve legislative priorities for his community.
And on Monday, with an obvious gesture to the Israeli right, Abbas implicitly condemned the recent Palestinian terrorist attack at the West Bank Tapua junction, in which three Israeli yeshiva students were injured.
Still, Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotric – whose seven seats are key to any right-wing Netanyahu-led government – vehemently opposes any government that relies on Raam’s support.
“We will not be partners in governments that actively oppose or refrain from Raam or other supporters of terror,” Smotric said last month.
Channel 12 said that Smotrih remained unruly from Abbas’s remarks.
Bennett met late Monday night with Abbas, Ynet reported, the second of the March 23 election.
The meeting came amid reports that under pressure from Netanyahu, Abbas met last week with Rabbi Chaim Drakman, the spiritual leader of the national-religious camp. A public television broadcaster in Cannes said the two met for an hour at Drakman’s home, but Drakman then ruled that the national-religious camp would not meet in a government dependent on Raam.
However, in a statement to the national religious website, Kipa Drakman refused to meet with Abbas, saying he was still “determined not to form a government with them”.
Yamina number two Shaked revealed on Monday, in closed-door recordings, that the party prefers to go with Netanyahu and the right-wing government, but is also determined not to go to the fifth election, even if it means uniting a government with Lapid .
Her remarks include harsh words about Netanyahu and his wife Sarah, whom she describes as “dictators” and “tyrants” with a “thirst for power” and says the prime minister is only interested in his ongoing corruption process.
It is expected that if Netanyahu fails to form a government, Rivlin will touch Lapid with the task.
Netanyahu was given the first opportunity to form a coalition on April 6 after receiving the 52 MK recommendations for the Lapid 45s.
Rivlin, who as president is tasked with authorizing a lawmaker to form a government, could extend Netanyahu beyond the 28 days ending Tuesday night, hand over the mandate to another MP or send it to the Knesset for a 21-day period, after which fifth elections they will be automatically convened if no one can form a government.
The president favors the second option, according to Monday’s Hebrew media reports, and plans to transfer Lapid’s government term as he receives the second best recommendations when Rivlin consults with party officials after the election.
Rivlin may also offer Bennett a chance to form a government, but reports, citing senior political sources, say the president is unlikely to take that path, even if Netanyahu and a majority of right-wing lawmakers decide to change their recommendations. to Rivlin in to support Bennett.
The last election, the fourth in April 2019, ended without difficulty, with Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc again failing to win a ruling majority, in part because three right-wing parties ran with the declared goal of replacing him.