Bennett Says Will Strive for Stable Right-wing Government, Prevent Fifth Election

After President Rivlin tasks Netanyahu with forming government, Bennett says won't lead a 'left-wing' coalition ■ Smotrich: Support from Islamist UAL party will lead to more Arabs voting, left-wing control

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Yamina head Naftali Bennett waving to supporters on Election Night last month.
Yamina head Naftali Bennett waving to supporters on Election Night last month.Credit: Tsafrir Abayov/AP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday he would act to form a stable right-wing government, and would not sit at the head of one that was "essentially left-wing."

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday picked Netanyahu to try and form a new government after an unprecedented fourth election in under two years.

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Bennett said the government must reflect the national consesus regardless of its personal components. He wished Netanyahu luck, and said Yamina would attend any talks to form a stable right-wing government with goodwill.

"There are some who call themselves right-wing who have no problem with dragging Israel into another election cycle," he said in veiled criticism against National Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich. "There aren't ideals there, there are ambitions."

Bennett clarified that he will also not join a left-wing government. "There are some on the other side who believe that in the name of our good will to bring stability, I will abandon my nationalist stances in order to establish a government that is essentially leftist which I will lead," he said. "Both sides are mistaken."

Following Bennett's announcement, New Hope chairman Gideon Sa'ar said his party is prepared to join two possible governments: "One is a government of the national camp led by one person," the statement read. "The other option is a government for change or an equal unity government with special arrangements that would allow us to stand by our worldview."

Sa'ar emphasized that a right-wing government led by one person who is not Netanyahu is "a radical idea, but we should start getting used to it."   

Smotrich, meanwhile, doubled down on his insistence that he will not be part of a government supported by the Islamist United Arab List party on Tuesday. He claimed that doing so would increase the number of Arab voters, thereby establishing a left-wing government. "The combination between them is a disaster for the Jewish State, no less," Smotrich wrote on his Facebook page.

He wrote that Netanyahu is aware, as well as his coalition partners in Shas and United Torah Judaism, that the right-wing bloc will fall in the long term if Mansour Abbas' party enters the government. Bennett, Smotrich said, is heading full-tilt towards a government that would require at least the passive support "of these terror supporters." He added, "In the next Knesset, there will be about 18-20 Arab MKs, who will join the left and give them the government for many years."

Bennett's Yamina, in response, said that Smotrich is a "snake in a righteous man's clothing" who has stepped on many people to advance his career. "It's all in the guise of 'in the name of God' and out of 'lofty ideals.' He tries to enslave the religious Zionist public by force for personal purposes while tarnishing and humiliating this public." Yamina, it added, will continue working toward establishing a "good and stable nationalist government."

Netanyahu was endorsed by 52 lawmakers, falling short of a 61-seat majority. Members of Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Religious Zionism have endorsed Netanyahu. Another 45 lawmakers recommended Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid: members of his own party, Kahol Lavan, Labor, Yisrael Beitenu and Meretz. Yamina's seven lawmakers recommended Bennett. New Hope, the Joint List and the United Arab List told the president that they were unable to endorse any of the candidates.

Bennett and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid have been holding intensive talks over the past two days in an effort to form a joint government, brokered by New Hope lawmaker and former Likud member Zeev Elkin.

Had these discussions begun earlier, Elkin told President Reuven Rivlin on Monday, the anti-Netanyahu bloc may have come to an agreement on a candidate for prime minister by Monday, when recommendations to the president were given.

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