Netanyahu Reaches Out to Bennett and Saar

YERUSHALAYIM -
israel elections
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ publicly reached out on Wednesday to the disaffected leaders of the right wing, Naftali Bennett and Gideon Saar, beckoning them to put aside longtime personal differences and join his coalition.

Netanyahu asserted that unlike the previous three elections, this time “the people made their will known clearly … The public gave the right-wing parties a clear majority — of 65 seats,” referring to the combined numbers of Likud, UTJ, Shas, Religious Zionism, Yamina and New Hope.

Such a coalition “can be established right away…and that’s what is required,” Netanyahu said, and raised the specter of a center-left coalition: “Any government other than a right-wing government will be a left-wing, unstable government and will be established in clear opposition to the ideology of the great majority of the public that voted for Likud and for other right-wing parties.”

“Such a government with its internal contradictions would destroy all our achievements in recent years and would collapse very fast. It would be a great disaster for the state of Israel, Netanyahu said. “I appeal to you, Naftali Bennett and Gideon Saar, it’s no secret that we’ve had differences over the years, but we’ve known how to get over them and work together for the benefit of Israel’s citizens.”

While Bennett has left the door at least slightly open to joining Netanyahu, Saar reiterated again on Wednesday in response to Netanyahu’s appeal that he will not sit in a coalition with the Likud leader, whom he alleges has put his personal interest of avoiding conviction on corruption charges ahead of the national interest.

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett has become the undisputed kingmaker of Israeli politics, as both Netanyahu‏‏ and Yesh Atid and opposition leader Yair Lapid sought his support for their post-election campaigns for the role of prime-minister-designate.

Netanyahu’s Likud offered Bennett a senior partnership including senior ministerial posts for all of his party’s seven MKs and a merger of the two parties, according to Channel 12.

From the opposition side, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid privately notified Bennett that he is prepared to accept a scenario in which Yamina head Naftali Bennett will be first prime minister in a rotational agreement, on condition he agrees to first pledge that he will not go with Netanyahu, according to Channel 12.

So far, neither side has committed to any deal, the report said.

Meanwhile, a Channel 13 poll showed that 80% of Israelis are dissatisfied with the election outcome.

Some 62% of respondents who identified with the anti-Netanyahu bloc think that Lapid should let Bennett have the premiership, even though Yesh Atid is more than twice the size of Yamina, as Bennett is seen as better positioned to garner the broad support needed for a majority.

Pro-Netanyahu voters were split on the idea of a right-wing government reliant on the backing of the Islamist Ra’am party. Forty-five percent said they could support it, while 39% opposed it.