Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid meet on forming new gov't, talks to continue

The meeting comes as both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Lapid look to woo the Yamina leader in talks to form a government after the elections.

CAN THEY work together to form a coalition? Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid in the Knesset in 2013. (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
CAN THEY work together to form a coalition? Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid in the Knesset in 2013.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
Yamina head Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid concluded their long-awaited coalition negotiation meeting in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning.
The meeting was reportedly positive, and another meeting will be held soon.
The two met a day after Bennett sat with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, like Lapid, is trying to woo him to form a government after the elections.
Bennett is reportedly considering a proposal to merge Yamina with Likud in exchange for going with the Netanyahu bloc. On the other hand, he is also reportedly considering establishing a political bloc of right-wing and centrist parties.
According to N12, this bloc will consist of his Yamina Party, Gideon Sa'ar's New Hope Party and Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party. Altogether, this would make up 21 seats, which would outnumber the 17 held by Lapid's Yesh Atid Party and give Bennett more leverage in negotiations.
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 Israel’s citizens," he said. "That is what is needed right now and, God willing, we will achieve this – and I believe it is possible.”
On Friday, Netanyahu met with Bennett at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem and 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."
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 [cause] 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.