Bennett, rival of Netanyahu’s ‘kingmaker’, agrees to join coalition to overthrow him

Far-right party leader Naftali Bennett on Sunday threw his crucial support behind a “government of change” in Israel to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in what would be the end of a political era.

Bennett’s move, which he announced in a televised speech, could allow opposition leader Yair Lapid to build a coalition of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties and hand Netanyahu his first electoral defeat since 1999.

Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party who finished second behind Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud in an inconclusive national poll on March 23, faces a deadline Wednesday by the Israeli president to announce a new government.

Lapid’s chances of success rest largely on Bennett, a former defense chief whose Yamina party’s six seats in the 120-member parliament are enough to give him kingmaker status.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a speech to supporters following the exit from the polls announced in the Israeli general election at his Likud headquarters in Jerusalem on March 24, 2021. REUTERS / Ammar Awad

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Under a possible power-sharing deal, Bennett would replace Netanyahu, the 71-year-old Likud leader, as prime minister and later give way to centrist Lapid in a rotation deal.

“This is either a fifth election or a unity government,” Bennett, 49, said in his speech, explaining his decision to partner with Lapid.

Israel has held four inconclusive elections since April 2019.

The various members of the new coalition would not have much in common other than a plan to end the 12-year tenure of Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, currently on trial on corruption charges he denies.

An anti-Netanyahu coalition would be fragile and would require the external support of Arab parliamentarians who oppose much of Bennett’s agenda, which includes more settlement building in the occupied West Bank and his partial annexation.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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