Hardliners and Centrists in Israel could well be on their way to stich together an unlikely coalition government in a bid to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Naftali Bennett, who heads the right-wing Yamina party, announced on Sunday that he was open to forming a coalition government with centrist leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.
In a video statement broadcast on social media on Sunday, Bennett said, “I hereby announce that I will work together with my friend Yair Lapid to form a unified government so that we can put the country back on track.”
It is learnt that both leaders will take turns being prime ministers for two years each as a part of their agreement. They have until Wednesday to hammer out the details.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, meanwhile, tweeted his own statement dismissing Bennett’s pitch for forming a government as a “scam”. He said, “There is not a single person in the country who would vote for Naftali Bennett if he knew what he was going to do. This is the scam of the century! Instead of forming a dangerous left-wing government, immediately after the end of Lapid’s mandate, it is possible to form a good right-wing government for Israel.”
Netanyahu who heads the Likud Party has been Prime Minister for 12 years. But his opponents have decided to make a political move in wake of the recent Gaza conflict where many hardliners feel Netanyahu took a softer stand by allowing a ceasefire after Israel attracted strong backlash for the death of innocent civilians, including women and children, in the bombings.
Naftali Bennett is a staunch opponent of the formation of a state of Palestine. He was previously a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party and had served as his Chief of Staff from 2006-08. He has also served as Defense Minister of Israel. He has not only called Palestinian children “terrorists”, he has also repeatedly advocated for shoot-to-kill orders against Palestinians entering Israeli territory.
In fact, rumors of the possible coalition first started floating last Sunday, when Naftali Bennett issued a long statement sharing how he actually felt about Israel’s actions against Hamas in Gaza. He said that though previously he had “refrained from speaking out against the government and sharing advice in the studios and on Facebook while the soldiers and police endangered their lives on the ground” he now feels, “I do not remember such a period of weakness, lack of function and national embarrassment.”
He added, “In recent weeks and days, no citizen has not felt distressed by the state of the country. Terrorist shooting at residents of Lod, Acre, Beer Sheva and the Galilee. Humiliated policemen on the Temple Mount, Hamas victory celebrations in Gaza and inside Israeli cities. Even Netanyahu’s most ardent supporters are beginning to understand that admiring the leader at all costs is not a substitute for policy.” He had hinted then at a possible coalition when he ended his statement with, “Now is the time to build and repair, not to deepen the rift.”
*Feature image: File image of Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu lighting the Chanukkah candle at the Israeli Bible Quiz 2015. Resized image extracted from picture by Edril via Wikimedia Commons.