Israel’s opposition leader came closer yesterday to overthrow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and form a new government after agreeing terms with various parties, including one led by Defense Minister Benny Gandz, a spokesman said.
During a 12-year tenure in the top office, Netanyahu has been a frequent polar figure at home and abroad. The end of his term may bring recovery from domestic political unrest, but significant changes in Israel’s foreign policy seem less likely than the ardent US ally.
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Yair Lapid, a centrist who set out to form the next ruling coalition after conservative Netanyahu failed to do so after the March 23 snap election, has until midnight (2100 GMT) to present a final joke.
Lapid, a 57-year-old former television host and writer, has not yet reached an agreement with his main collaborator, the nationalist Naftali Bennett, who would serve as the first prime minister under a proposed rotation between the two men.
Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and centrist Gantz, Blue and White, said in a joint statement that they “agreed on the outlines of the government”.
Gandz will remain defense minister in the new cabinet, the parties said.
Netanyahu, 71, has sought to discredit Bennett and two other right-wingers who are negotiating with Lapid, saying they endanger Israel’s security – a hint of efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program and manage ever-increasing Palestinian ties.
Keeping the door open on them, Israel’s longest-serving leader, who was first elected prime minister a quarter of a century ago, says he is still able to form the next government.
Agreements have also been reached with the left-wing Meretz party and the center-left Labor Party, as well as with former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu nationalist party, a Lapid spokesman said.
The United Arab List also negotiated for membership in the coalition. If so, it would be the first time in Israeli history that an independent Arab party would join the government.
A source close to the Lapid-led talks said the proposed new government would try to maintain consensus by avoiding ideological issues such as whether to occupy or occupy the occupied West Bank region that the Palestinians want for a state.
If Lapid misses yesterday’s deadline, parliament will have three weeks to agree on a new candidate. If it fails, Israel will hold another election, the fifth in about two years.