Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett were set to meet late Saturday night to discuss the possibility of forming a government without Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to Kan News, Bennett wants Lapid to recommend him to President Reuven Rivlin on Monday to form the next government, a demand which Lapid is unlikely to acquiesce to.
At the same time, Lapid is thought likely to demand that Bennett declare he will not enter a government under Netanyahu as a condition to any discussion of a prime ministerial rotation agreement between the two in the event that the “bloc for change” and Yamina can establish some form of government.
Sources in Yamina said that the party was leaning towards recommending Bennett to form a government, even though he will almost certainly not be close to obtaining the mandate, and to then see how events unfold.
The Islamist Raam Party met on Saturday in Nazareth to discuss whom it would recommend to form a government but reportedly failed to make any decision.
Kan News reported that sources inside Gidon Saar’s New Hope party have indicated that it would not rule out being part of a government that relies on the abstention of Raam
On Saturday night at a Mimouna celebration, Netanyahu lauded his success in bringing coronavirus vaccines to Israel and warned of challenges facing the country, including the Iranian nuclear program.
“In the face of these challenges and in the face of the amazing opportunities that stand before us we need a stable right-wing government for years which will take care of Israe’s citizens, that is what is needed right now and God willing we will achieve this, and I believe it is possible,” said Netanyahu.
On Friday, Netanyahu met with Bennett at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem oand discussed the need to form a "stable, functioning government as soon as possible," a spokesman for Bennett said after the meeting.
Netanyahu was expected to offer Bennett key ministerial posts and a merger of Bennett's Yamina into Netanyahu's Likud. But he was not expected to offer Bennett what he is seeking: A rotation as prime minister.
Bennett declined to reveal his intentions when he spoke to reporters at the Prime Minister's Office before the meeting.
"We [in Yamina] have one goal, and that is forming a good and stable government that will help Israeli citizens as soon as possible," Bennett said. "We will do everything possible to bring that about."
Sources close to New Hope head Gideon Sa'ar said on Friday that an Israel Hayom headline about Bennett offering Netanyahu that the Yamina leader would go first in a rotation with the prime minister that would be backed from outside the coalition by New Hope was incorrect.
The sources said that not only would he keep his promise to not sit in a Netanyahu-led government, he also would not back from outside a coalition in which Netanyahu serves as alternate prime minister.
Bennett will be meeting on Saturday night with opposition leader Yair Lapid, who is expected to offer Bennett to go first in a rotation as prime minister. But sources close to Bennett said on Thursday night that he had already decided not to recommend Lapid to form a government when he meets with President Reuven Rivlin on Monday.
To obtain a majority of 61 MKs, Netanyahu and Lapid would need the backing of both Yamina and the Ra'am (United Arab List) Party of MK Mansour Abbas.
Religious Zionist party leader Bezalel Smotrich reiterated on Friday morning that his party would not sit in a government with Ra'am or "other supporters of terror," after Abbas delivered a speech in Hebrew on Thursday calling for coexistence.
"Forming a government that will rely on Ra'am and Abbas will be a disaster and weeping for generations and we will not allow it to form," said Smotrich, calling for Sa'ar and Bennett to join a right-wing government led by Netanyahu.
"Whoever gives a hand to Abbas' 'outstretched hand' castrates - consciously or unconsciously - the most basic Israeli ethos," warned incoming Religious Zionist Party MK-elect Orit Struck on Friday in response to Abbas's statements that he was stretching out his arm toward coexistence within Israel.
"Whoever gives a hand to Abbas' 'outstretched hand' castrates - consciously or unconsciously - the most basic Israeli ethos and, on the way, kicks those Arabs who are willing to accept this ethos, enlist in the IDF, and work for a true partnership with the State of Israel," tweeted Struck.
But in an effort to change Smotrich's decision to not rely on Ra'am to form a coalition, outgoing Likud MK Ayoub Kara met on Friday with the Religious Zionist Party's mentor, Rabbi Haim Druckman. Kara The Jerusalem Post after the meeting that it was "very interesting" and that both he and the rabbi were optimistic that Netanyahu would be able to form a coalition.
Abbas delivered a speech in Hebrew in Nazareth on Thursday night, in an effort to reach out to Jewish Israelis, but he did not reveal his political plans.
“What unites us is stronger than what divides us,” he said. “The time has come for listening to others.”