© Reuters. PHOTO FILE: Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist party Yesh Atid, makes a statement to the press ahead of the party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem on May 31, 2021. Debbie Hill / Pool via REUTERS
By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday fought against an agreement by his political opponents for a left-wing, centrist and right-wing party government aimed at overthrowing him.
Netanyahu, facing the prospect of the end of his 12-year career as prime minister, said on Twitter “all lawmakers elected by right-wing votes must oppose this dangerous left-wing government,” and he looked historical Arab participation in the coalition.
The right-wing leader launched the attack on social media on Monday following the announcement of centrist politician Yair Lapid, about 35 minutes before a Wednesday evening deadline, who had managed to form a government coalition.
Under the agreement, nationalist Naftali Bennett, 49, a former defense minister and high-tech millionaire, will become prime minister and replace Lapid, 57, a former TV presenter and finance minister. in about two years.
A parliamentary session, in which the government can be approved by a simple majority, could take up to 12 days, said far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman, a member of the new coalition.
With the speaker of parliament, a Netanyahu loyalist, largely expected to try to avoid any legislative attempt to hold the vote first, the prime minister could use the period to try to twist the weapons.
The coalition agreement concluded the March 23 elections where neither Netanyahu’s Likud party, nor its allies, nor its opponents won a majority in the legislature. It was Israel’s fourth national election in two years.
The government line comprises a patchwork of small and medium-sized parties from across the political spectrum, including for the first time in Israel’s history that which represents its 21% Arab minority – the United Arab List (UAL).
On Twitter, Netanyahu – who once drew accusations of racism by organizing his supporters to come out and vote because “Arabs are crowding out in the crowd” – highlighted the links of the new alliance with the UAL leader Mansour Abbas.
Netanyahu released an old video clip of Bennett saying that Abbas “visited terrorist assassins in prison” after a 1992 attack in which Arab citizens of Israel killed three soldiers.
Spokesmen for the United Arab List did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Members of the future government have little in common other than a desire to oust Netanyahu, who is also on trial for corruption charges. He denies any wrongdoing.
The list includes Bennett’s Yamina (Rightward), center-left Blue and White, led by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left-wing parties Meretz and Labor, nationalist party Yisrael Beitenu of former Defense Minister Lieberman and New Hope (OTC :), a right-wing party led by former education minister Gideon Saar, who has left Likud.
Political analysts expect Netanyahu to try to pick up on what one has described as “little-pending fruit,” exploiting Yamina members who are unhappy with joining forces with Arab and left-wing lawmakers.
“We launched the movement, but we didn’t complete it. There will be 12 days that will not be easy, and in the end, there will be a government,” Lieberman told Channel 13 TV.
Netanyahu controls 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, nearly twice as many as Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, and is allied with at least three other religious and nationalist parties.
During his tenure as prime minister, Netanyahu has been a polarizing figure at home and abroad. His rivals cited criminal charges against him as a major reason why Israel needs a change of leadership, arguing it could use a new term to legislate immunity to protect itself.
A source participating in the coalition’s talks said the proposed new government would try to maintain consensus by avoiding key ideological issues such as annexing or ceding the occupied West Bank territory that the Palestinians want for a state. Bennett has argued in past annexations.
“This government will focus primarily on economic issues,” Lieberman said.
Perhaps the most immediate test for a new administration is to pass the budget, a problem that has killed coalitions in the past.
Due to the prolonged political stalemate, Israel is still using a pro-rated version of a 2019 base budget that was approved in mid-2018. There may be some major budget changes since the government has no Jewish parties. ultra-Orthodox seeking state funding for religious institutions.
The new government, if sworn in, will face other considerable challenges. In addition to Iran and the dying peace process with the Palestinians, it is also conducting a war crimes trial by the International Criminal Court and an economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.