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Opposition Parties in Israel Unite in Bid to Unseat Prime Minister Netanyahu

The leaders of two of Israel’s main opposition parties said they would work together to form a coalition government on Sunday, in a move that could see Benjamin Netanyahu unseated as prime minister for the first time in 12 years. Naftali Bennett, head of the small religious and nationalist Yamina party, and opposition leader Yair Lapid, of the centrist Yesh Atid party, have announced they’ve joined forces.

“In the last two years, Israel has been in a circle of elections, internal fighting with no leadership,” Bennett said Sunday in a televised announcement. “This will not happen again. We can stop this and take control. There is no option for a right-wing government lead by Netanyahu — it’s either a change government or new elections.”

chathamhouse/Flickr

“No one believes Netanyahu anymore,” Bennett added. “In this critical moment, I’m saying I intend to form a national unity government with Lapid.”


Israeli politicians Yair Lapid, left, and Naftali Bennett speak at a reception marking the opening
of the 19th Knesset on Feb. 5, 2013, in Jerusalem.Uriel Sinai / Getty Images file

The new coalition comes just days after the cease-fire that ended an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas that left dozens of people dead. The violence erupted amid a power vacuum in Israel after an election in March — the fourth in two years — yielded no clear winner.

Teams from both parties are set to meet in the evening and restart negotiations to form a unity government, according to a statement from Yesh Atid, who said Friday it had also reached agreements with Israel’s left-wing Meretz party; the New Hope party, a hard-line nationalist faction made up mostly of former Netanyahu allies; and the social-democratic Labour Party, which ruled the country for decades after the country’s founding in 1948.

Netanyahu appeared on Israeli television after the announcement on Sunday and claimed Bennett should not be taken seriously as he only wishes to be prime minister and is “zig-zagging.”

“What will Iran say when they see this left-wing government? Will they fight Hamas?” Netanyahu said. “This is a con. This is not a national unity government, it is an anti-Zionist government. This is a con government and we should not allow this to happen.”

At least 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, are required to form a majority. A 28-day mandate for Lapid to form a new government would have run out on Wednesday.

 



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