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Netanyahu’s grip on power loosens as rival moves to unseat him – Times of India

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JERUSALEM: The leader of the far-right party, Naftali Bennett, pledged his significant support on Sunday behind a “unity government” in Israel to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which would be the end of a political era.
Bennett’s decision, which he announced on television, could enable opposition chief Yair Lapid to put together a coalition of right-wing, centrist and leftist parties and hand Netanyahu his first electoral defeat since 1999.
Lapid, the head of the centrist Yash Atid Party, who is second after Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud in the March 23 national ballot, faces a Wednesday deadline from the Israeli president to announce the new government.
Lapid’s chances of success lie largely with Bennett, a former defense chief and a high-tech millionaire whose six seats in the 120-member parliament are enough to give him the status of kingmaker.
As part of a possible power-sharing deal, Bennett will replace Netanyahu, the 71-year-old head of the Likud party, as prime minister, and later give way to centrist Lapid in a rotation agreement.
“I am announcing today that I intend to work with all my might towards establishing a unity government with Yair Lapid, president of Yash Attid,” Bennett said in his speech. “This is either the fifth election, or a unitary government.”
Reacting on television to Bennett’s announcement, Netanyahu accused him of committing “fraud of the century”, citing previous public promises that Bennett asked not to be involved with Lapid.
Israel has held four elections since April 2019 that ended without a clear winner and left Netanyahu and his rivals short of a parliamentary majority, with the veteran leader remaining in office as head of a caretaker government.
Among the diverse members of the new potential coalition would be little other than a plan to end the 12-year term of Israel’s longest-serving leader, Netanyahu, now in trial on corruption charges, which he has denied.
An anti-Netanyahu coalition would be fragile and would require external support by Arab members of parliament who oppose most of Bennett’s agenda, including greater settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and its partial merger.
It would be expected that the COVID-19 epidemic focused on economic reform, while keeping aside issues on which members disagreed, such as the role of religion in society and Palestinian aspirations for the state.
A Bennett-lapid agreement was already reported to be close when violence broke out between Israel and the Gaza militants on 10 May and the Yamina leader postponed the discussion. The battle ended with a ceasefire after 11 days.
An official of the Palestine Liberation Organization said after Bennett’s speech that the prospective government would be “highly right-wing” and no different from the Netanyahu-led administration.
counter proposal
Trying to thwart an opposition deal, Netanyahu on Sunday made a three-way counter-proposal to stand in favor of another right-wing politician, Gideon Saar.
Under that blueprint, Saar would serve as prime minister for 15 months, Netanyahu would return for two years, and Bennett would take over for the remainder of the government’s term.
However, Likud’s former cabinet minister, Saar, immediately rejected the proposal.
Netanyahu’s rivals have cited his corruption case as one of the main reasons why Israel needs a new leader, arguing that he is using a new term for immunity law to shield himself Can.
If 57-year-old Lapid fails to announce the government by Wednesday at the end of the 28-day period to form the coalition, a new election is likely.

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