Yair Lapid tells Israeli president he can form a coalition government that would end Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year rule.
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid has informed the president that he can form a coalition government, in a move that would bring an end to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years in power.
Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, was tasked with forming a government by President Reuven Rivlin after Netanyahu again failed to put together his own coalition following Israel’s fourth inconclusive election in less than two years.
In a statement on Twitter on Wednesday, Lapid said he had informed Rivlin of the deal. “This government will work for all the citizens of Israel, those that voted for it and those that didn’t. It will do everything to unite Israeli society,” he said in a statement issued shortly before a midnight deadline (21:00 GMT).
Congratulations to you @yairlapid and to the heads of the parties on your agreement to form a government. We expect the Knesset will convene as soon as possible to ratify the government, as required.
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) June 2, 2021
Lapid, a former TV presenter and a secular centrist, won the crucial support of hardline religious-nationalist Naftali Bennett, a tech multi-millionaire who has held a number of government portfolios including the defence ministry, on Sunday.
Under the coalition agreement, Bennett and Lapid would rotate the role of prime minister, with Bennett serving the first two years and Lapid the final two.
The agreement still needs to be voted on in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, where it requires majority support before the government can be sworn in.
Israel’s latest political drama adds to the woes of Netanyahu, who is on trial for criminal charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust while in office – accusations he denies.
After losing the job of prime minister, he will not be able to push through changes to basic laws that could give him immunity and will lose control over certain justice ministry nominations.
Netanyahu’s Likud won the most seats in the March 23 election, but he was unable to form a majority with his natural allies. Crucially, Bennett’s far-right party – allied with Netanyahu – refused to join forces with the United Arab List, a party that emerged as a kingmaker of sorts.
‘Strengthening of democracy’
Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White said in a joint statement they “agreed on the outlines of the government and core issues relating to the strengthening of democracy and Israeli society”.
Gantz would remain defence minister in the new cabinet, the parties said.
Deals were also reached with the left-wing Meretz and centre-left Labour parties as well as with former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, a Lapid spokesman said.
The United Arab List was also agreed to join the coalition. If the government is formed, it would be the first time in Israel’s history that an independent Arab party becomes a member of the government.
Netanyahu, in power for the past 12 years, has sought to discredit Bennett and other rightists negotiating with Lapid, saying they were endangering Israel’s security.