Coalition negotiations are underway following Israel's unprecedented fourth election in two years. President Reuven Rivlin will meet with all the party heads on Monday before deciding which party leader will receive the mandate to form the next government.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud emerged as the largest party with the all votes counted. However, Netanyahu still does not have a clear path to a 61-seat majority needed to form a coalition.
The anti-Netanyahu bloc, a patchwork of left, right and centrist factions, is also just shy of a majority. The Islamist United Arab List party, headed by Mansour Abbas, and Naftali Bennett's Yamina have not yet declared their support for either bloc.
9:28 P.M. Sa’ar: No amount of pressure will make New Hope break vow not to ally with Netanyahu
Gideon Sa'ar did not say he who he would back as the candidate given the chance to form a coalition when he delivered a speech on Sunday, but said stressed “personal interests” won’t block the formation of a coalition that would replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Sa'ar, chairman of the New Hope party, which he founded after splitting from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud, said he had been as clear as possible on the campaign trail that he wouldn't join a Netanyahu-led government and would work to form an alternative coalition. "This is what we're doing," and no amount of pressure can change that, Sa'ar said.
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The Netanyahu challenger also accused the prime minister of bringing about Israel's four elections in less than two years, and said, "We'll do everything we can to stop a fifth election."
“We want a government of reconciliation," that will unite all parts of society,” one of “values and respect," he said.
Addressing Likud members, Sa'ar said: “For years, you let [Netanyahu] do whatever he wanted. Do the right thing… Take out Bibism before it takes Likud down …The sun will rise again even if Netanyahu isn’t prime minister. Israel’s prosperity doesn’t rely on any one individual.” (Haaretz)
7:40 P.M Far-right party leader urges Bennett to back Netanyahu for PM
Far-right party leader Bezalel Smotrich urged former ally Naftali Bennett, now leader of right-wing Yamina party, to “do the right thing” and recommend Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister, as coalition consultations with President Reuven Rivlin are set to begin on Monday morning.
“I’ll do everything I can to bring about a right-wing government” headed by Netanyahu, Smotrich said at a press briefing. He told Bennett that “any recommendation that’s not for Netanyahu will bring us closer to a left-wing government,” which he argued would be “dangerous in terms of everything you and I believe in.”
Smotrich warned Bennett and New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar against joint moves with the left or Arab parties, and said “I’m convinced we’ll find a solution” to let Bennett and Sa’ar – who called to replace Netanyahu – join the government. (Haaretz)
12:30 P.M. Labor head Michaeli warns Gantz plans to 'steal votes'
Labor Chairwoman Merav Michaeli accused Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz of "once again preparing the ground for stealing the votes" of the anti-Netanyahu electorate.
"By warning of an 'extreme, right-wing government without a balance that will protect the citizens,' [Gantz] no longer commits not to join forces with Netanyahu. (Haaretz)
11 A.M. Gantz says 'unbalanced' Netanyahu government would be 'a disaster'
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Saturday night that an "extreme far-right government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu would bring upon us a disaster."
Gantz, who made his remarks at a Mimouna celebration marking the end of the Passover holiday, has not yet revealed publicly who he will recommend that President Reuven Rivlin task with forming a government, but has said that Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid should be the first to receive the mandate to form a colaition. (Jonathan Lis)
7:15 P.M. Bennett, Lapid have 'good' meeting lasting about two and a half hours
Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett met with Netanyahu challenger Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid Saturday evening, but gave no indication of progress toward an elusive resolution to Israel's political deadlock.
The meeting, which lasted two and a half hours, was described as "good" and an additional meeting will be held shortly, and came one day after his talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.
Lapid is expected to offer Bennett a rotation deal for the premiership, with Bennett serving first, if the Yamina leader recommends that Lapid be tasked with forming the government. (Jonathan Lis and Josh Breiner)
3:55 P.M. Netanyahu, Bennett meet for three hours, agree on further talks
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with Yamina leader Naftali Bennett ended after three hours. The meeting ended without any deal, but the two agreed to continue negotiations.
According to a statement from Bennett's party, 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, who has yet to say who his party would endorse as a candidate for prime minister, is also set to meet Netanyahu challenger Yair Lapid on Saturday. (Haaretz)
2:15 P.M. Leader of Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community: It’s better to cooperate with Arab parties than with anti-religious ones
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox-Lithuanian community and spiritual leader of most of United Torah Judaism’s constituents, said Friday that it is better to form a government with the support of the Arab parties than to cooperate with parties whose worldview runs counter to religious values.
"The rabbi was asked about the possibility of forming a government that would rely on the support of the Arab parties as opposed to the support of anti-religious parties and said that cooperation with those who respect religion and Jewish tradition is better than those who oppress religion," read a statement issued on Kanievsky’s behalf Friday.
Channel 12 reported Thursday that Kanievsky prefers cooperation with the Arabs over cooperation with the left’s secular parties because the Arab parties are closer to the ultra-Orthodox in terms of family values and respect for religion. Channel 12 also reported that Rabbi Kanievsky conveyed this message to the representatives of United Torah Judaism. (Aaron Rabinowitz)
1:05 P.M. Bennett meets with Netanyahu, calls for 'stable government'
In a brief statement before entering a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett said, "We have one goal: to form a good, stable government as quickly as possible."
Bennett, who has yet to endorse any candidate for prime minister, added that "no effort will be spared" in order to reach the stated goal. The two politicians are meeting in Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem.
The Yamina leader is also set to meet with Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid on Saturday for coalition talks. (Josh Breiner)
12:33 P.M. Islamist leader offered the Jewish right an olive branch, but can it get him any results? | Analysis
Israelis are used to turning on the evening news at 8 P.M. and finding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s face there. But on Thursday evening, instead of watching the prime minister enumerate his achievements in the war on the coronavirus, viewers saw the face of United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas – flanked by the green flags of the Islamic Movement – appealing to the Israeli public in Hebrew and during prime time.
It was an extraordinary sight. “I, Mansour Abbas, a member of the Islamic Movement, an Arab and a proud Muslim, extend my hand … to create an opportunity for a shared life, in the holy and blessed land for the followers of the three religions and both peoples.”
But such placatory messages were not the news politicians had so eagerly been waiting for. Everyone was calmly waiting to hear: Who will Abbas support for prime minister? Which candidate will he recommend that the president task with forming the next government? (Jack Khoury)
11:48 P.M. Smotrich calls on Bennett to rejoin right-wing coalition
Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich has called on Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett and New Hope leader Gideon Sa'ar to "put their differences aside" and join the Likud-led right wing coalition.
He repeated his committment not to join a "dangerous" government supported by the United Arab List, accusing its leader Mansour Abbas after his Thursday speech of "supporting terrorism" and "sticking to the Palestinian narrative, which contradicts the Jewish one." (Jonathan Lis)
11:18 P.M. Bennett expected to recommend himself for PM
Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett, who is set to hold coalition negotiations with Benjamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid over the weekend, is expected to endorse neither of them for prime minister, a party source said.
According to the source, Bennett would recommend himself for the top position in consultations with President Reuven Rivlin next week. (Josh Breiner)
9:32 A.M. Netanyahu expected to offer Bennett return to Likud
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett are set to meet on Friday to discuss proposals for forming a coalition, a day before another meeting between Bennett and Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid, who hopes to replace Netanyahu.
In recent days, Netanyahu's Likud and Bennett's Yamina party – which has yet to announce who it will endorse as a candidate for prime minister – have been in negotiations, as the prime minister seeks to convince Bennett and his party's number 2, Ayelet Shaked, to join his potential coalition.
Netanyahu is expected to offer Yamina senior cabinet positions, including possibliy the Defense Ministry. He is also expected to propose Bennett and Shaked be integrated into the ruling party, a move Netanyahu has so far blocked due to his frayed relations with the two.
According to the proposal, Yamina would be absorbed into Likud and get seven slots on Likud's list.
Channel 12 News also reported that Netanyahu will offer to make tens of thousands of Yamina memebers into Likud party members, allowing Bennett real influence in the party. However, sources involved in the talks claimed that this item has not yet been discussed. (Jonathan Lis)
8:23 P.M. Sources close to Bennett say he won't name Lapid as PM candidate
Sources close to Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett, whose seven seats could help secure a majority to form a coalition, say he does not intend to recommend Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid as a candidate for prime minister.
Bennett is set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday and with Lapid on Saturday.
Meanwhile, members of the bloc of parties opposing Netanyahu are concerned because, as one of them told Haaretz, they still don't see a plan for forming a government and are stuck in a holding pattern.
According to one member of the bloc, only after the Bennett-Lapid meeting "will we know if it is even feasible to form a government together." (Jonathan Lis)
8:10 P.M. Islamist party leader says 'time to create different reality' in Israel
United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas said during a press conference on Thursday that "unlike all the other politicians, I never ruled anyone out. It's time to create a different reality."
UAL's four Knesset seats could give Netanyahu and his allies or the opposing bloc the necessary 61-seat majority for a governing coalition.
Prior to the election, Abbas refused to rule out joining a government led by Netanyahu, or supporting one from the outside. Since the election, Abbas has been courted by both sides, meeting with Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid earlier this week. (Haaretz)
8:42 P.M. Bennett doesn't say whether he would join Netanyahu
Naftali Bennett's Yamina party said he will "continue making every effort to form a good and stable government that will pull Israel out of the chaos," after a call by Netanayhu to join him.
Yamina's statement didn't accept nor reject Netanyahu's proposal. "Naftali is looking out for the citizens, not for [Knesset] seats," it said. (Josh Breiner)
8:39 P.M. Sa'ar says 'won't support Netanyahu-led government'
New Hope leader Gideon Sa'ar said he "not join nor support a Netanyahu-led government," adding: "I'll keep my commitment to my voters."
Responding to a call by Netanyahu to join a "stable right-wing government," Sa'ar said on Twitter: "On the very same day that he and his people are spreading again false and delusional conspiracy theories against me and the president, Netanyahu reaches out to me to join him."
He added that letting Netanyahu stay in power would "harm Israel. He prefers his own good over the good of the country." If Netanyahu "clears the way," Israel could move forward, Sa'ar said. (Haaretz)
8:14 P.M. Netanyahu, in first public statement since election night, calls on right-wing rivals to 'return home'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Naftali Bennett and Gideon Sa’ar to “return home,” arguing “the people have spoken with a clear voice” in support of a right-wing government. This is his first public statement since election night last week.
At a press briefing, Netanyahu said a right-wing coalition led by him would be “strong and stable,” whereas “any other government would be an unstable left-wing government” that will dissolve “very quickly. It would be a disaster for Israel and for the Israeli economy.” (Haaretz)