Israel’s latest political drama adds to the woes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges.
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid has informed the president on Wednesday that he can form a coalition government in a move that would bring an end to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years in power.
Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, was tasked with forming a government by President Reuven Rivlin after Netanyahu again failed to put together his own coalition following Israel’s fourth inconclusive election in less than two years.
Lapid, a former TV presenter and a secular centrist, won the crucial support of hardline religious-nationalist Naftali Bennett, a tech multi-millionaire who has held a number of government portfolios including the defence ministry, on Sunday.
Beit HaNasi spox:
In accordance with paragraph 13(b) of Basic Law: The Government (2001), Chairperson of Yesh Atid MK @yairlapid has informed President of Israel Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin that he has been able to form a government.
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) June 2, 2021
Israel’s latest political drama adds to the woes of Netanyahu, who is on trial for criminal charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust while in office – accusations he denies.
After losing the job of prime minister, he will not be able to push through changes to basic laws that could give him immunity and will lose control over certain justice ministry nominations.
Netanyahu’s Likud won the most seats in the March 23 election, but he was unable to form a majority with his natural allies. Crucially, Bennett’s far-right party – allied with Netanyahu – refused to join forces with the United Arab List, a party that emerged as a kingmaker of sorts.
‘Strengthening of democracy’
Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White said in a joint statement they “agreed on the outlines of the government and core issues relating to the strengthening of democracy and Israeli society”.
Gantz would remain defence minister in the new cabinet, the parties said.
Deals were also reached with the left-wing Meretz and centre-left Labour parties as well as with former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, a Lapid spokesman said.
The United Arab List was also agreed to join the coalition. If the government is formed, it would be the first time in Israel’s history that an independent Arab party becomes a member of the government.
Netanyahu, in power for the past 12 years, has sought to discredit Bennett and other rightists negotiating with Lapid, saying they were endangering Israel’s security.