In a round of meetings that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has held with members of the right-wing bloc over the past few days, various possibilities for forming a right-wing government were raised.
Among other options, party leaders discussed the need to find a creative solution to National Religious Party leader Betzalel Smotrich’s opposition to joining a government that would be dependent on Ra’am and the need to pressure members of New Hope and other parties in an attempt to persuade them to detach themselves from those lists and join a Netanyahu government.
Yisrael Hayom reports that another idea was floated as a sort of “last resort.” Although Netanyahu said during the campaign that he would not agree to serve as prime minister in a rotation, he might be forced to agree to a rotation with Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, who would serve first as prime minister, with Netanyahu in the role of alternate prime minister. This position is allowed under a law that was changed to bring Benny Gantz into the current government as alternate prime minister.
Political officials have reportedly run this scenario by New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, who has agreed to enter a government under that format, as Netanyahu will not be the serving prime minister.
A few conditions would have to be met for this option to be implemented. First, Netanyahu has refused to a two-year rotation, and as of now it was still unclear for what period of time he would be willing to see Bennett serve as prime minister. However, the very fact that Netanyahu is willing to consider any rotation is a drastic change.
Second, the Likud Party would demand that should the High Court rule against Netanyahu being allowed to serve as prime minister, due to the criminal charges against him, Bennett would step down and allow Netanyahu to head the government.
Third, Netanyahu and his family would remain in the Prime Minister’s Residence in Yerushalayim for the entire period the government is in power, even when he is not prime minister. Bennett is expected to agree to this condition, and will continue living in his own home in Raanana. The Likud did not respond to this report. According to Sa’ar, “No such proposal has been made.”
Meanwhile, sources close to Netanyahu have raised the possibility that as a last-ditch answer, another Likud MK might serve as prime minister to persuade Sa’ar to join the coalition.
On Thursday night, Netanyahu met with both Smotrich and Bennett.
Prior to the meeting, Bennett said, “Since the election, countless Israelis have reached out to me, asking, really begging, me to pull Israel out of the ongoing chaos. I am here with a lot of good will and I am committed to doing what I can to rescue Israel from the chaos and form a good, stable government. This is the time for national responsibility.”
After the meeting, the Likud and Yamina issued a joint statement: “The meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett is over. It was conducted in good spirit and a positive atmosphere. They agreed to meet again.”