Likud Hopes Mansour Abbas Will Thwart Bennett-Lapid Gov’t

YERUSHALAYIM -
Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas, seen in the Knesset. (Knesset Spokesman’s Office)

The Likud party has no plans to sit idly by as negotiations between Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid and Yamina chief Naftali Bennett continue, full steam ahead. Party members are working to thwart the so-called “change” bloc from establishing a coalition government. According to a report in Yisrael Hayom, over the past week, a close associate of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas for three hours in an attempt to convince him to oppose the government in the works.

The source walked away from the talks with the impression Abbas was inclined to side with the Right. Likud officials also hope Joint Arab List MKs will be uncomfortable supporting a Bennett-led government, and as a result, will abstain from voting in favor of such a coalition, torpedoing the move.

In addition to pressure from Likud, the other side was also set to hold talks with Abbas on Sunday and Monday in an attempt to secure his support for a government they form. Despite his ties with Likud, Abbas has proven he is not in anyone’s pocket when he voted against the party at the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee.

Bennett and Lapid were set to continue coalition talks on Sunday. Talks among other members of the change bloc were held all day Friday. Discussions focused on the allocation of ministry portfolios and issues pertaining to the formation of a parity government, among others.

In an online post following Friday’s talks, Bennett wrote: “I want to emphasize two things: Firstly, this wasn’t my first choice. I went with Netanyahu with all my might from the moment he received the mandate … Netanyahu failed. He didn’t convince [Religious Zionist Party head Betzalel] Smotrich to join, and the rest is history. We have two options before us, fifth elections – or an attempt to establish a broad government. Secondly, I emphasize this is an attempt.

“The atmosphere may be positive, but the differences are not simple to bridge. I think it goes without saying that I am willing to go far and pay a personal political price with my ‘base’ just so that a government can be established. Its organizing principle will be simple – goodwill and the understanding that not all of the issues disputed by the Right and Left for 70 years must be solved now. We can agree to disagree. But – there are core principles that I am not willing to yield on and red lines I will not cross.”

Bennett emphasized that “these are difficult days, I don’t know whether I will succeed, but I can promise that I will try with all my might to correct [the situation].”

Meanwhile, in an interview with Channel 13, Yamina member Amichai Chikli, who has voiced opposition to forming a government with the Left, said that he and Bennett were in disagreement over the direction of the party.

“I know it’s disrespectful for a backbench MK to stand up on his hind legs, but our commitment is to the voters. I felt like I would be lying to myself if I were to go for this move.

“We are a party that is aimed at challenging the Likud from the Right. Joining up with ideological opponents? That is a twisted move. I oppose it. I am not resigning from politics. Bennett’s expectation is that I will resign. I told him I won’t resign. This is a totally crooked government, and it has no justification. Fifth elections would be better than a government with Meretz and Labor,” he said.

On Motzoei Shabbos, dozens of protesters demonstrated outside of Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked’s office.

Protesters called on Shaked to announce she would not join a Bennett-led left-wing government, with some accusing Yamina of fraud for what they said amounted to stealing their votes for the Left.