Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Yamina party in Israel, faces possible defections from his ranks as he tries to participate in a left-dominated coalition to replace incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the next 48 hours.
On Sunday, the international media were abuzz with news that Bennett had reached an agreement with opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party and several smaller parties to replace Netanyahu, though it was not clear they had enough votes.
Neither the pro-Netanyahu bloc nor the anti-Netanyahu bloc achieved a 61-seat majority in the last elections in March, the minimum threshold necessary to assemble a governing coalition in Israel, where no single party has ever held a majority.
Netanyahu’s Likud Party, as the largest party, received the first “mandate” to form a government, but could not within the 28-day deadline. Lapid received the second mandate, and his 28-day deadline to form a coalition expires on Wednesday, June 2.
After that, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, can theoretically vote in a government without specific party allegiances, but the country would more likely be headed to its fifth elections in less than three years — an outcome few Israelis desire.
Lapid’s task has been complicated by the war with Palestinian Hamas terrorists, which was accompanied by riots between Arabs and Jews in Israel, making a coalition with Arab parties — necessary for the opposition to govern — far more risky.
Bennett, a tech entrepreneur and former aide to Netanyahu, ran on a promise not to work with the Arab parties, but seems ready to break that vow — and face a backlash from his voters — for what may be his best chance to become prime minister.
Netanyahu is trying to convince politicians from Yamina to defect from their leader’s decision, and Bennett and second-in-command Ayelet Shaked are reportedly receiving additional security from the Knesset due to threats by right-wing activists.
The opposition coalition could also be tripped up for other reasons. The Jerusalem Post reported Monday that Bennet and Lapid are struggling to keep their potential government’s ministers united because of squabbles over “minor portfolios.”
Netanyahu is currently facing trial on corruption charges that critics say are flimsy and politically motivated. Netanyahu has been prime minister since 2009, and is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, including a term in office from 1996 to 1999.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new e-book, The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it). His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.