Bennett announces plan to form gov't with Lapid that will oust Netanyahu

Sa'ar turned down Likud's offer for first place in PM rotation • New Hope and Yesh Atid negotiating teams will meet to form a unity government.

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett announces that he will form a unity government with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid., May 30, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Yamina leader Naftali Bennett announces that he will form a unity government with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid., May 30, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Yamina leader Naftali Bennett delivered his long-awaited announcement on Sunday that he would join a government with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and seek to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he accused of leading Israel to national suicide for his own personal reasons.  
Yesh Atid and Yamina began negotiations immediately following the announcement on Sunday night in an effort to reach an agreement by Wednesday’s deadline.
A vote of confidence in the government and a swearing-in ceremony could take place that day. But legally, once Lapid tells President Reuven Rivlin he can form a government, he has a week to do it.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin could block the vote for up to a week. But his spokesman said he would not engage in political tricks.
“At such a crucial moment, responsibility must be taken,” Bennett said. “Therefore, I am announcing today that I intend to act with all my strength to form a national-unity government together with my friend Yair Lapid so that, God willing, together we will rescue the country from this tailspin, and we will get Israel back on track.
“Yair and I disagree on a number of issues of substance. But we are partners in our love for the country and willingness to work for the sake of the country.”
Bennett invited parties to show restraint in achieving their goals in coalition talks and in the government. More elections would collapse the country, he said, adding that he had decided instead to “stop the craziness.”
“The only options are a unity government or elections,” he said. “Those saying a right-wing government is possible are lying.”
In response, Netanyahu said if Bennett would have allowed Lapid’s mandate to form a government to end on Wednesday night, MKs from the so-called change camp would have defected and enabled the formation of a right-wing government.
Bennett was acting for his own personal interests, knowing that if there were to be another election, his political career would be over, he said, adding: “No one would have voted for you if they knew what you would do.”
What Bennett was forming was not a unity government but a weak government that would harm Israel’s deterrence, Netanyahu said. He compared it to what is happening in politics in Syria and Iran.
Earlier, Yamina leaders Bennett and Ayelet Shaked spoke in favor of forming a unity government with Lapid at Sunday’s Yamina faction meeting, and they received backing from the MKs in the faction, a party spokesman said.
“Leadership means taking responsibility and not running from it,” Bennett told the faction. “We have redlines, and we will not cross them. We will not give up territory or harm the Jewish identity of the State of Israel. It would be easy to remain stubborn and light fires like others. That is the way to make the country come apart.”
The only Yamina MK of the seven who has vowed to rebel is Amichai Chikli, who did not attend the meeting. He would vote against the government Bennett and Lapid will form and keep his seat in the Knesset despite pressure from inside his party to resign, he said in radio interviews.
“Black flags hover over” such a government, Chikli wrote on Twitter on Saturday night in a reference to the Black Flag protest movement that has tried to bring Netanyahu down.
New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar turned down offers from Likud on Sunday morning to rotate as prime minister with Netanyahu and then Bennett in a three-man rotation.
Likud negotiator Yaakov Atraktzi made the offer in a conversation with Sa’ar on Saturday night. According to the offer, Sa’ar would serve as prime minister for the first 15 months, followed by Netanyahu for two years and then Bennett for the remainder of the term.
Netanyahu put the offer in writing and got the leaders of Shas, United Torah Judaism and the Religious Zionist Party to sign it.
“In an effort to end personal considerations and take unprecedented, far-reaching steps to guarantee the security and the character of the State of Israel and prevent the formation of a left-wing government that would endanger the state, we the undersigned party heads are making this offer,” the letter to Bennett and Sa’ar says.
In a social-media post, Netanyahu said he had invited Sa’ar and Bennett to meet immediately and close a deal for a right-wing government.
Sa’ar reacted on Twitter by reiterating his party’s opposition to Netanyahu remaining in power.
“Our position and our obligation remains to replace Netanyahu’s rule,” he wrote. “We will continue to act in accordance with that. Warm recommendation for the next few days: Ignore the political spin.”
The negotiating teams of New Hope and Yesh Atid met Sunday in an effort to finalize an agreement on a unity government.
No significant progress has been made with Blue and White, leading to criticism of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in the change camp.
Lapid and Bennett have agreed that Bennett will serve first as prime minister until September 2023, and Lapid will take over until the term ends in November 2025.