Bennett-Lapid Coalition Negotiations Suspended Amid Gaza Flare-up

Yamina seems disinclined to sign any coalition agreements until the intentions of United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas become clear

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Naftali Bennett at the presidential residence in Jerusalem last week.
Naftali Bennett at the presidential residence in Jerusalem last week.Credit: Maya Alleruzzo / AP

The negotiating teams of the parties that are seeking to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended coalition talks on Tuesday due to Israel's recent flare-up with Gaza.

There were a few phone conversations, mainly between the negotiators for Naftali Bennett's Yamina and Gideon Sa'ar's New Hope, but no meetings have been scheduled.

There are still differences that must be resolved, but the developments in the Gaza Strip are overshadowing political considerations.

Yamina seems disinclined to sign any coalition agreements until the intentions of United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas become clear. The leader of the Islamist party has suspended negotiations with the bloc that hopes to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Moreover, it is not yet clear if it is feasible to establish a government under the current circumstances.

“It’s like the negotiations with Netanyahu; we wouldn’t agree to sign any agreement with him unless it became clear that establishing a government in feasible,” said a party source.

“Now, too, we won’t sign agreements until we understand Abbas’ intention, if he will return to the negotiating table.” Senior Yamina officials say that despite the security situation, the door has not been closed on a deal with the UAL.

“If the military operation ends in a day or two, everything will go on as usual, including with Abbas.”

Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett was asked during a tour of Ashkelon Tuesday whether Abbas’ party is still considered a potential partner in a government he would head, but Bennett refused to answer questions.

Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich on Tuesday continued to pressure Yamina lawmakers not to cooperate with Bennett’s attempts to form a government, tweeting, “Ayelet [Shaked], Nir [Orbach], Idit [Silman], Matan [Kahana] – wake up. Don’t be led by a shepherd who’s lost all moral direction.”

Finance Minister Yisrael Katz also called on Bennett to drop his efforts, saying, “Events of the past two days in Gaza and in Israeli cities lead to one decisive conclusion: All parties must stop this courting of the Islamic list for the purpose of forming a government.”

The assumption in the change bloc is that the chance of signing a coalition agreement this week is very small; at best, preliminary agreements might be reached with Meretz, the Labor Party or Yisrael Beiteinu by the end of the week, depending on the security situation. Both Bennett and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid had originally hoped to sign the first coalition agreement early this week and tell the president they had successfully formed a government by Thursday.

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