Israel Election Results: Bennett Doesn't Commit to Naming Netanyahu as PM Candidate After Meeting

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Bennett and Netanyahu during coalition talks after Israel's previous election, March 2020.
Bennett and Netanyahu during coalition talks after Israel's previous election, March 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's held a three-hour meeting with Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett on Friday, as coalition talks continued following last week's election. Bennett, whose party won seven seats, has not committed to joining a coalition led by Netanyahu, but has also not ruled it out.

According to a statement from Yamina, the two politicians discussed "the need to form a stable and functioning government as soon as possible, and the options of making that happen in the current political situation."

Bennett is set to meet with Netanyahu challenger Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid, on Saturday.

Associates of Bennett have said that he does not plan to choose either Netanyahu or Lapid when parties give the president their recommendation for which candidate should be given the first chance at forming a coalition, and that Yamina will likely recommend Bennett.

Sources close to Netanyahu and Bennett have kept the content of the meeting under wraps, but the statement issued by Yamina appeared to hint that they believe the chances of forming a right-wing coalition have decreased after the announcement by Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich that he would refuse to join a government that includes the United Arab List.

The statement also did not repeat a point that Bennett has consistently made: that he would do everything possible to prevent another election from being called.

Ahead of the meeting, sources said Netanyahu was expected to offer integrating Yamina into Likud, reserving seven spots on Likud's election slate for Yamina members, and a number of ministerial portfolios, including naming Bennett defense minister.

While Bennett is set to meet with Lapid on Saturday, many members of Yesh Atid are suspicious and believe he is merely using talks with anti-Netanyahu parties to apply pressure on and extract concessions from Netanyahu.

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