Lapid, Bennett Said to Reach Deal on Rotation for Joint Gov’t

YERUSHALAYIM -
MKs Naftali Bennett (L) and Yair Lapid speaking in the Knesset in 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett have reportedly reached a “breakthrough” in their discussions on forming a joint government to remove Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from power, Kan News reported Sunday evening.

According to multiple media reports, Lapid – whose party has 17 seats – has agreed to allow Bennett – whose Yamina has seven seats – to serve as Prime Minister first, in a potential power-sharing agreement between them, during talks on Motzoei Shabbos.

The meeting followed Bennett’s meeting with Netanyahu on Friday.

According to Kan, Lapid told close associates following that meeting that “there are significant developments in the talks with Bennett and I assess that we will be be able to form a coalition with him.”

The proposed power-sharing government between Lapid and Bennett would be a slim one, with a maximum of 18 ministers: nine for right-wing Bennett, centrist Blue and White’s Benny Gantz and right-wing New Hope’s Gideon Sa’ar on one side, and nine for Lapid and others on the center-left, Channel 12 reported.

According to Channel 12, Bennett is still deciding whether he wants to be prime minister in such a government, or back Netanyahu and likely take the country to a fifth election, as Netanyahu does not appear to have any path to forming a coalition.

Bennett has refrained from backing either Netanyahu or his rivals after the inconclusive election, positioning him as a potential kingmaker.

Both blocs appear to need the support of Yamina and the Islamist Ra’am party to secure a majority. Ra’am, the smallest party in the incoming Knesset with four seats, said it had not decided on who to back for premier after a weekend party meeting.

According to a separate report on Channel 12, citing allies of the Yamina leader, Bennett would prefer a full right-wing government led by Netanyahu, but that does not currently seem possible. His second choice would be a right-wing government led by Netanyahu with the outside support of the Islamist Arab Ra’am party, but that has been ruled out by Religious Zionism’s Betzalel Smotrich. His third choice would be a partnership with Lapid and the center-left, in which Bennett himself serves as prime minister. The report said that Bennett prefers, as a last resort, a government with Lapid over a fifth election.

A decision by Bennett to agree to a deal with Lapid could lead most of the center-left parties to recommend Bennett as prime minister when they meet with President Reuven Rivlin on Monday to nominate a candidate to form a governing coalition.

The parties elected to the Knesset will meet with Rivlin on Monday to give their recommendations for prime minister. Rivlin is expected to announce on Wednesday which candidate will be given the mandate to attempt to form a government.

In addition to Yamina and Ra’am, Sa’ar’s New Hope has yet to announce which candidate it will endorse on Monday, but has ruled out both Netanyahu and Lapid.