Lapid, Bennett hope to form government within a week

Rivlin entrusted Lapid with forming a government on Wednesday

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid (L) pictured next to President Reuven Rivlin (photo credit: AVI KENNER/GPO)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid (L) pictured next to President Reuven Rivlin
(photo credit: AVI KENNER/GPO)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett intend to engage in marathon talks to form a unity government beginning Thursday after President Reuven Rivlin announced Wednesday night that he is entrusting Lapid with the second mandate to form a government.
Lapid and Bennett wanted to form a government as soon as possible and believe it can be done within a week. They expressed concern that if they did not hurry, their efforts could be harmed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose mandate ended Tuesday night without a coalition being formed and who is trying to sabotage the formation of a government that would replace him.
Yamina MKs are under pressure to oppose a unity government, following the lead of MK Amichai Chikli, who announced his opposition on Wednesday morning. Netanyahu vowed that more MKs would join him.

Lapid will have 28 days to build a coalition, concluding on June 2. He intends to form a government in which Bennett goes first in a rotation with him in the Prime Minister’s Office, but he has not ruled out a coalition without Yamina.
 
“The main consideration that Israeli presidents must weigh when arriving at the decision of who to entrust with forming a government is who has the best chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the new Knesset,” Rivlin said.
“From the number of recommendations, it is clear that MK Yair Lapid could form a government that has the confidence of the Knesset, despite there being many difficulties.”
Lapid pledged to do everything to ensure that an Israeli unity government will be formed as soon as possible.
“After two years of political paralysis, Israeli society is hurting,” he said. A unity government isn’t a compromise or a last resort - it’s a goal, it’s what we need. We need a government that will reflect the fact that we don’t hate one another. A government in which Left, Right and Center will work together to tackle the economic and security challenges we face; a government that will show that our differences are a source of strength, not weakness.”
 
RIVLIN MET with Lapid and Bennett at the President’s Residence earlier Wednesday. At Rivlin’s request, the rest of the party leaders submitted their recommendations for the second mandate. Lapid received recommendations from 56 MKs and Bennett from only his party’s seven MKs.
Netanyahu called on Bennett to not form a government with Lapid. He accused him of misleading the public due to his personal ambitions.
“What Bennett wants to form is a dangerous left-wing government,” Netanyahu warned. “Bennett is breaking promise after promise.”
Sources in the Likud revealed that there had been contacts with Bennett about having the Likud and its satellite parties recommend him to form a government in return for a signed commitment to work for the establishment of a right-wing government. The Likud blamed Bennett for not accepting the deal.

“What Bennett wants to form is a dangerous left-wing government,” Netanyahu warned. “Bennett is breaking promise after promise.”
Sources in the Likud revealed that there had been contacts with Bennett about having the Likud and its satellite parties recommend him to form a government in return for a signed commitment to work for the establishment of a right-wing government. The Likud blamed Bennett for not accepting the deal.
"Bennett has been playing both sides and no one can believe a word that comes out of his mouth," a source in Likud said. 
Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett arrives at the President's Residence (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett arrives at the President's Residence (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Responding to the Likud’s attacks on him, Bennett said Netanyahu failed to form a right-wing government. He said there are two options: additional elections or forming what he called “a wide, emergency government that can take the cart out of the mud.”
He called on right-wing parties to join a unity government, saying “The public won’t forgive those who cause fifth elections.”
LIKUD, SHAS, United Torah Judaism and the Religious Zionist Party instead sent Rivlin letters asking him to give the mandate to the Knesset and not to Lapid or Bennett. The Likud wrote in its letter that if the mandate would be given to the Knesset, a government could be formed quickly and additional elections could be avoided.
Rivlin responded that “returning the mandate to the Knesset would be a misapplication of the law and could result in a fifth round of elections before all possibilities for forming a government had been exhausted.”
New Hope and five of the six MKs of the Joint List endorsed Lapid this time after not endorsing any candidate for the first mandate. New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar said it was the right step on the path to a unity government.
In a letter which was sent by Joint List representatives to the president, the party wrote that, “When choosing between entrusting MK Naftali Bennett with forming a government, returning the mandate to the Knesset and entrusting MK Yair Lapid with the mandate, the majority of the Joint List prefers that MK Yair Lapid be given the mandate.”

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid arrives at the President's Residence (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)Opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid arrives at the President's Residence (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Joint List added that it “does not support a government headed by MK Naftali Bennett, and will continue in contacts with MK Yair Lapid.” The Hadash and Ta’al Parties of the Joint List supported the decision while Balad opposed all facets of it.
Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am (United Arab List) made no recommendation to Rivlin, though it said in a statement after the decision that it would cooperate “positively” with whichever party receives the mandate.
Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar said he still hoped a right-wing government could be formed.
“To all those exulting over us returning the mandate, we are not worried, even if the path back could be long,” he saidץ
He warned Bennett, Sa’ar and Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich that the public would punish them for preventing Netanyahu from forming a government.
“The people of Israel will not vote again for those who hung [Netanyahu],” Zohar wrote on Twitter.
Idan Zonshine contributed to this report.