Israeli prime inister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday sought to try to dissuade opponents from forming a “government of change” as media reports say a deal to unseat Israel’s longest-serving leader could be imminent.
A mandate for opposition chief Yair Lapid to put together a coalition after four inconclusive elections in two years, expires on Wednesday. Israeli media said Mr Lapid was closing in on an alliance of right-wing, centrist and leftist parties.
His chances of success rest largely with far-right politician Naftali Bennett, a kingmaker whose Yamina party has six key seats in parliament.
Mr Bennett (49) was widely expected to announce whether he would team up with Mr Lapid, who heads the centrist Yesh Atid party. Israeli media reports largely predicted Mr Bennett would agree to the partnership.
But first, Mr Bennett would have to rally his own party’s legislators behind joining what right-winger Mr Netanyahu’s opponents have described as a government of “change” comprising factions from the left, centre and right.
Still short of a parliamentary majority after a March 23rd election that ended in stalemate, such a diverse grouping could be fragile, and require outside backing by Arab members of parliament whose political views differ sharply from those of the Yamina party.
Mr Bennett has maintained public silence in recent days, but Israeli political commentators largely predicted he would opt for a partnership with Mr Lapid. Faced with a possible deal, Mr Netanyahu made a sudden counter-offer on Sunday that would entail a break in the prime minister’s 12 consecutive years in office.
In a proposal he signed along with leaders of parties in his current coalition, Mr Netanyahu offered to go second in a “triple rotation” of the premiership of a right-wing government.
Under the blueprint, published by a Likud spokesman, Gideon Saar, head of the rightist New Horizon party, would become prime minister for 15 months, followed by Mr Netanyahu for two years and then Mr Bennett for an unspecified “remainder of its term”.
However, Mr Saar, a former Likud cabinet minister, swiftly rejected the offer, writing on Twitter: “Our position and commitment are unchanged - to end Netanyahu’s rule.” – Reuters