Right-Wing Leaders Blame Each Other for Political Stalemate

Head of the Religious Zionist party MK Bezalel Smotrich speaking at a press statement in the Knesset, Wednesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Two of Israel’s right-wing leaders were trading fusillades on Wednesday, accusing each other of preventing the formation of a right-wing government.

Religious Zionist party leader Bezalel Smotrich warned that Yamina leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked are heading toward a left-wing coalition led by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.

“Bennett and Shaked tricked people for two weeks while continuing to work on a left-wing government,” Smotrich said, referring to a statement that such an option was “off the table” after the Gaza fighting started. But that was only to dispel criticism while the rockets were flying, he said.

“In the days ahead, Bennett will hold a dramatic press conference and explain how he has to join a left-wing government to prevent elections,” Smotrich predicted. “Bennett and Ayelet are lying. The reason why a right-wing government won’t be formed is that they wanted a left-wing government.”

Shaked retaliated in a press conference, saying that not Yamina but Smotrich is “the greatest of obstacles to forming a right-wing government.”

She says Smotrich is “firing in all directions” and “telling brazen lies” by accusing her party of preventing the formation of a right-wing government.

Shaked said she has demanded that Smotrich back a right-wing minority government with outside support from Ra’am, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has attempted to do, but Smotrich rejected it.

“Yamina has taken upon itself the mission of extracting Israel from the chaos by forming a government,” she said. “We are paying a heavy public price. But we are proud of it.”

A third view was expressed by Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, who has been opposing his party’s possible move to join Lapid: “There is currently perhaps a last chance to form a right-wing government… the ones preventing its formation are Gideon Saar and Bezalel Smotrich,” he tweeted Wednesday evening.

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