05/31/2021, 14.44
ISRAEL
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Bennet-Lapid government could end Netanyahu era

Yamina and Yesh Atid are in the final stretch to form a new government that would include the extreme right and the left. The outgoing prime minister calls this the “fraud of the century.” For a rabbi in the peace camp, nothing is certain about the number needed for a majority; in his view, term limitations should be imposed.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 71, has warned that the country’s security is at stake if a unity government between ultra-nationalist Naftali Bennett and centrist Yair Lapid goes ahead. Calling it the  “fraud of the century”, he urged right-wing voters to reject the deal.

At present, Netanyahu’s appeal appears more of a desperate attempt to save his leadership, never as close to end in more than 11 years in power, under the weight of corruption trials and the prospect of a minority government.

The prospective coalition, which would include Israel’s Jewish ultra-right and Israeli Arabs, could remove “Bibi” once and for all from power and put him in legal jeopardy given his troubles with the law.

In early May, Israeli President Rivlin gave opposition leader Yair Lapid a mandate to form a government, following Netanyahu's failure to put together a working majority.

For that to happen, Lapid needs a majority of 61 seats (out of 120) in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament,

This comes a few weeks after Israel’s fourth election in less than two years. As a result, uncertainty prevails in Israeli politics, aggravated by the recent war in Gaza against Hamas and domestic outbreaks of violence.

Netanyahu's adversaries have until Wednesday to reach an historic agreement, perhaps ending forever a long chapter in the country’s political history.

Netanyahu  attacked Bennett, accusing him of “misleading the public” during the election campaign when he told voters that “he would not support Lapid”.

“The only thing he cares about is being premier. It is scandalous that with 6 seats one can become prime minister. The Israelis who chose me with 2.5 million votes wanted me as prime minister,” Netanyahu said, further fuelling political divisions.

Meanwhile, Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party and the right-wing nationalist Yamina party continue to negotiate to form a government.

According to the Times of Israel, Bennett's new government aims to build “change” and end the Netanyahu era forever. “I will do everything to form a national unity government with my friend Yair Lapid,” Bennett said, putting Israel back on the right path.

He admits however that there are differences between the two sides, but notes that both share the same determination to work together for the good of the country.

Speaking to AsiaNews,  Jeremy Milgrom, an Israeli rabbi and a member of the Rabbis for Human Rights NGO, said that part of Israeli public opinion is cautiously optimistic that a new government might be set up “within the week”. But this will depend “on how many Members of Parliament support it.”

Currently, “there is no certainty about the numbers. It is already clear that Netanyahu will do everything to prevent this scenario. The speaker of the parliament, who is close to the outgoing prime minister, will try some tricks to stop the change.”

According to Milgrom, now “there are more chances than in the past” that Netanyahu will be out of the picture, but “the games are not yet over and it will not be easy to get rid of him.” What is more, the prospect of a fifth round of voting in two years remains.

For the activist rabbi, one solution would be to “set a maximum” number of mandates for prime minister. This will be “one of the issues for the future” to avoid more uncertainty like now.

In the current situation, “many parliamentarians, especially in the Likud, owe their careers to Netanyahu and will do everything to defend his leadership.”

Recent events – such as the war in Gaza and domestic outbreaks of violence in Israel (and Palestine) – will shape future developments.

“Netanyahu tried to convince people that everything was under control, when in fact it wasn’t,” Rabbi Milgrom said.

“In addition, the international standing of the outgoing prime minister and the country is weakening, especially after Trump's election defeat and the arrival in the White House of Democrat Joe Biden.”

The deaths, especially of children, in Gaza are an added burden for which “Netanyahu must take responsibility because what has happened in the past month and a half was avoidable, but nothing was done to prevent it”.

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