Netanyahu's opponents hashing out deal as deadline looms

On Sunday, Naftali Bennett, leader of the small, die-hard nationalist Yamina party, said he would work with Lapid to form a broad unity government and “save the country from a downturn and get Israel back on track.” Lapid has already secured the support of two smaller liberal parties and a secular ultra-nationalist faction.

Bennett and Lapid have until Wednesday to negotiate a deal in which the couple will split the premiership – with Bennett serving for the first two years and Lapid the following two years.

No political party has ever won an absolute majority in the Israeli parliament with 120 seats, the Knesset, and forced smaller factions to form a coalition with more than 61 seats.

If Lapid and his allies – ranging from tough nationalists to liberal Zionists and a small Islamist party – can overcome their differences and seal a deal, it would mean the end of Netanyahu’s rule for the time being.

Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister, in office since 2009 and briefly in office in the late 1990s. Although his Likud party is the largest faction in the Knesset, he has become a divisive figure. Israel has held four general elections in the past two years, all of which have been viewed as referendums on its ability to rule.

The longtime prime minister has retained power despite being charged with fraud, breach of trust and taking bribes in 2019. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and has refused to step down during the trial.

After Bennett announced his intention to partner with Lapid, Netanyahu struck in a nationwide televised address saying that such a government “poses a threat to the security of Israel and also a threat to the future of the state.”

Lapid responded to Netanyahu’s remarks on Monday, saying they were “ruthless and dangerous, those of a man who has lost the brakes.”

“If you want to know why we are determined [bring] a change of government in Israel, listen to this speech from Netanyahu, ”said Lapid, referring to Netanyahu’s claim that a government would be“ dangerous ”without him and to growing calls for violence from some against the prime minister’s political opponents and others .

Lapid referred to the security details assigned to the prime minister’s political rivals, reporters and prosecutors in the corruption case against Netanyahu.

On Sunday, the Knesset Guard approved the assignment of a personal bodyguard to senior Yamina Party politician Ayelet Shaked amid increasing threats of physical violence. Protesters in front of Shaked’s house held up signs reading “Traitors to the Left”. Bennett received a personal security division earlier this month.

Gideon Saar, a former member of Netanyahu’s Likud party who split off ahead of the March elections, said his New Hope was doing “everything in our power” to compromise and form a government, but do so The result is uncertain.

Saar railed against the “incitement” against politicians who wanted to put together a coalition without Netanyahu, and said the Prime Minister “and his people are engaged in a wild delegitimization of a government that has yet to come into being”.

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