Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is no longer seeking a government that relies on the outside support of the Ra’am Party (United Arab List), he said Tuesday at a press conference in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu no longer sees any chance of forming a government, although he still intends to maintain his mandate to form a government, which ends on May 4, his associates said.
Instead, he would seek a direct election for prime minister, which will pass if Yamina supports it, Netanyahu said.
“We don’t need Ra’am,” he said. “We need a direct election to form a government.”
When asked if he condemned the repeated attacks on Ra’am by Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich, Netanyahu declined to comment, which angered Ra’am MKs.
“Netanyahu knows our address if he wants to form a government,” Ra’am MK Saeed Alharomi told The Jerusalem Post. “He knows he needs to restrain them.”
Asked about the possibility that another senior Likud figure, such as Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, would form a government in a rotation with him as prime minister, Netanyahu said that would “disrespect the will of one million voters who cast ballots that said, ‘The Likud led by Netanyahu.’”
Netanyahu’s associates said he would devote the rest of his mandate to attacking and “outing” Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, who is expected to attempt building a coalition with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid after Netanyahu’s mandate ends.
At the press conference, Netanyahu accused Bennett of preventing the formation of a right-wing government “due to his personal ambition to be prime minister with seven mandates.”
Yamina wanted there to be a right-wing government, but holding a fifth election in just over two years was not an option, Yamina faction head Ayelet Shaked said at the Association of Municipal Corporations conference at the Herod’s Hotel in Eilat.
Netanyahu met on Tuesday with Smotrich and urged him to back the bill for the direct election of prime minister submitted by Shas MKs.
Lapid condemned Netanyahu’s call for a direct election, calling it a “stalling tactic” and that Israel does not need another election.
Lapid faced criticism from within the anti-Netanyahu camp on Tuesday from MKs who complained that he had not finalized a deal with Bennett. The gaps between Lapid and Bennett remain wide on the makeup of a prospective government, how portfolios should be distributed and which one of them should receive the next mandate to form a government from President Reuven Rivlin.
Yesh Atid faction head Meir Cohen convened representatives of factions in the anti-Netanyahu bloc at the Knesset on Tuesday to plan a strategy ahead of the next meeting of the Knesset Arrangements Committee on Wednesday.
In the first meeting of the committee late Monday night, the two sides failed to agree on who should receive the posts of deputy Knesset speaker and temporary chairmanship of the Knesset’s Finance and Foreign Affairs and Defense committees.
Until deputy Knesset speakers are appointed, a date for the election to replace Rivlin as president cannot be set.