Bennett Asserts He Won’t Join Lapid Nor Netanyahu-Led Gov’t

YERUSHALAYIM -
Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Yamina party. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett on Wednesday reiterated that he will neither back Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu following the elections nor will he join the center-left bloc led by Yair Lapid.

With Yamina projected to win 10-11 Knesset seats in most polls, Bennett has emerged as a kingmaker in the coming political battle and has made no secret of the fact that he is eyeing the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Yamina will not join a left-wing government, not even under [Yesh Atid leader Yair] Lapid,” he told Army Radio. “The public has to choose – it’s either Bibi or Bennett,” he said.

As for the possibility of joining a government that includes former ally Religious Zionist Party leader Betzalel Smotrich – who has joined forces with Otzma Yehudit party leader Itamar Ben Gvir – Bennett said, “We’re against boycotts so we will partner with anyone who is in favor of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Commenting on Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman’s suggestion to form an obstructive bloc against Netanyahu, he said, “I’m not playing that game. My goal is to replace Netanyahu and maintain the national camp’s power.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu on Tuesday asked Shas leader Rabbi Aryeh Deri and United Torah Judaism leaders Rabbi Moshe Gafni and Rabbi Yaakov Litzman to sign that they will support him for the role of prime minister following the elections.

Netanyahu also reportedly demanded that Smotrich sign a similar pledge, but the latter refused.

“Such promises have proved useless in the past and we have no intention of signing one,” the Religious Zionist Party said in a statement. “We are committed solely to the right’s values and path and we will be part only of a government that expresses them.”

Liberman panned the move and called on Lapid, New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar and Bennett to commit to joining forces after next month’s elections.

A poll released Wednesday on Kan News showed that the right-wing bloc and the bloc of parties committed to unseating Netanyahu remain virtually tied.

According to the poll, which was conducted by the Kantar polling agency Tuesday and published Wednesday morning, if new elections were held today, the right-wing bloc would win 59 seats – down from 62 seats in the previous Kantar poll, released on Feb. 9.

The left-wing-Arab bloc is projected to win 41 seats, up from 38 in the previous poll, while the two right-of-center parties committed to unseating Netanyahu – Yisrael Beytenu and New Hope – received a combined 20 seats.

The Likud remains the frontrunner with 29 seats.

Yesh Atid comes in second with 18 seats, followed by the New Hope with 13 and Yamina with 11.

The Join Arab List is down at nine seats, while the United Arab List (Ra’am), which split from the Joint List, failed to cross the electoral threshold.

Among the chareidi factions, Shas received eight seats, while United Torah Judaism received seven.

Yisrael Beytenu is projected to receive seven seats, followed by Labor with six.

Meretz, Blue and White, and the Religious Zionist party all narrowly cleared the threshold with four seats each.