“It is my intention to do my best to form a government of national unity with my friend Yair Lapid so that, God willing, together we can save the country from a tailspin and bring Israel back on its course,” said Bennett.
He said he made the decision to keep the country from slipping to a fifth straight election in just over two years.
You have until Wednesday to close a deal.
In a statement on Sunday, Netanyahu desperately appealed to Bennett to avoid the temptation to join his opponents.
He accused Bennett of deceiving his constituents and abandoning his nationalist principles “to be prime minister at all costs”.
In order to form a government, a party leader must secure the support of a majority of 61 seats in parliament. Since no single party controls the majority alone, coalitions are usually formed with smaller partners.
As the leader of the largest party, Netanyahu was given the country’s figurehead the first opportunity to form a coalition. But he was unable to achieve a majority with his traditional religious and nationalist allies.
Netanyahu even tried to woo a small Islamist Arab party but was foiled with one by a small ultra-nationalist party racist anti-arab agenda. Although Arabs make up around 20% of the Israeli population, an Arab party has never sat in an Israeli coalition government before.
After Netanyahu failed to form a government, Lapid had four weeks to cobble together a coalition.
Lapid was already faced with a difficult challenge, given the broad spectrum of parties in the anti-Netanyahu bloc that have little in common. These include cautious left parties, two right-wing nationalist parties, including Bennett’s Yamina, and most likely the Islamist United Arab List.
Lapid’s task became even more difficult after the outbreak of war with Hamas fighters in Gaza on May 10th. His coalition talks were put on hold during the 11 days of the fight.