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Netanyahu opponents likely to establish coalition to form government

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Tel Aviv (dpa) – Opponents of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to form a coalition in order to establish a new government ahead of a deadline which would otherwise mean fresh elections.

Israel has held four elections in the past two years but all have failed to produce a clear majority.

Naftali Bennett of the pro-settler Yamina party has decided to opt for an alliance with opposition leader Jair Lapid of Yesh Atid (which translates as «there is a future»), Israeli radio reported on Sunday. An official announcement is expected soon.

Bennett was reportedly planning to inform party members on Sunday.

He agreed with Lapid that the two would share the office of prime minister, with Bennett initially to take the role for two years, and then to be replaced by Lapid.

Lapid’s centrist party came in second in the elections on March 23, behind Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud.

After the March elections, Netanyahu had failed to form a government, so President Reuven Rivlin appointed Lapid to do so.

Lapid’s pro-reform party planned to continue coalition talks Sunday with Gideon Saar’s right-leaning New Hope. It has already reached agreements with the left-liberal Meretz Party, the Labour Party and former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.

Lapid is trying to ensure the support of several small parties that are far apart on the political spectrum, in order to form a minority government that would be acceptable to Arab deputies.

They are united above all by their rejection of Netanyahu, who is currently being tried for corruption.

However, the smaller parties have widely diverging political goals.

Lapid’s mandate to form a government runs out on Wednesday at midnight.

After officially announcing the alliance, Lapid would next have to inform Rivlin. He would then have seven days to swear in the government in parliament, requiring a simple majority of the 120 lawmakers in the Knesset.

If he succeeds, it would bring an end to the era of Netanyahu, in office since 2009. He was also prime minister from 1996 to 1999.

However, Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, fought back on Sunday, offering Bennett and Saar a coalition where the three would each have a period holding the office of prime minister.

Netanyahu spoke of a «fateful moment for the security, character and future of the state of Israel,» in a video posted on Twitter.

He urged Bennett and Saar to join him in «preventing a dangerous leftist government.»

Saar, who would be the first to become head of government, rejected the proposal as «spin.»

The coalition agreements would require a difficult balancing act on issues such as the two-state solution with Palestinians, political analyst Tal Schneider told journalists in a telephone conversation Sunday.

She said she saw Netanyahu as an active opposition leader once he is replaced.

«He probably thinks this government will collapse very quickly,» Schneider said, adding that if that should come to pass, Netanyahu would count on winning a new election.

«He’s probably planning to hold a fifth election fairly soon,» she said.

By Sara Lemel, dpa

 

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