Naftali Bennett joins with Lapid; likely to take over as next Israeli prime minister
By ALAN SMASON, Special to the CCJN
(JERUSALEM) – Former defense minister Naftali Bennett, the head of the Yamina Party, appears to have formed a new coalition government in Israel with Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid Party, which will likely ensure Bennett will replace Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister initially. Lapid would take over as prime minister six months later.
While Netanyahu’s Likud Party still controls 31 seats and constitutes the largest bloc in the 120-seat Knesset, it is still not enough to stop Bennett and Lapid from a coalition that will result in what Bennett and Lapid have announced as a “change government” in Israel.
Netanyahu, who has served as prime minister for the last 12 years – longer than any other prime minister – had attempted to form a coalition government earlier on Sunday in which he and New Hope Party’s Gideon Sa’ar would share power with Sa’ar holding the prime minister’s post for 17 months and Netanyahu assuming his former office for an additional two years. Sa’ar’s party rejected the pact.
Under terms of the latest deal struck between Yamina and Yesh Atid, Bennett, considered a right-wing representative, and Lapid, considered a centrist, would share power in the first government to exist without Netanyahu involved in more than a decade. In addition to Bennett and Lapid rotating duties as prime minister, the portfolios for the interior affairs, religious affairs and settlement affairs ministerial positions will be retained by Yamina. The other ministerial portfolios, including defense and foreign affairs, would go to Yesh Atid.
Other specific terms of their power sharing will have to be settled soon. Given the task of forming a unity government by exiting President Reuven Rivlin, Lapid has until Wednesday to finalize the details and report to Rivlin.
“It’s my intention to do my utmost in order to form a national unity government along with my friend Yair Lapid, so that, G-d willing, together we can save the country from a tailspin and return Israel to its course,” Bennett announced in a televised statement Sunday evening broadcast from the Knesset.
“Israel’s political crisis is unprecedented, this madness must end,” Bennett said, alluding to Netanyahu’s attempt to hold onto power despite never having achieved a clear-cut majority in four elections held the past two years.
Netanyahu, currently battling corruption charges in an ongoing trial, has been the subject of continual criticism by opposition forces, who accuse him of abuse of power and possible malfeasance in office due to his having accepted gifts. His Likud Party was never able to overcome the hurdle of keeping more than the minimum needed to maintain power in a coalition of parties formed from the 120-seat Knesset.
After Bennett’s announcement, the prime minister claimed that Bennett and Lapid were orchestrating “the scam of the century” and that the resulting government would be “liberal leaning.” Netanyahu also claimed the coalition was comprised of elements who have a personal vendetta against him, sponsoring legislation that would bar him from obtaining office again.
Even though Bennett only controls six seats and Lapid has 17, it’s still enough to achieve a majority within their right-wing and centrist sectors when coupled with outside support from the more liberal left-leaning and Arab members of the Knesset.
To view Bennett’s press conference as broadcast over i24 News, click here or on the image below: