Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday he would act to form a national unity government if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to put together a right-wing coalition in the next two weeks, before his mandate to do so expires.
In a statement to reporters, Bennett accused Netanyahu of seeking a fifth election, lamenting that despite his party’s exhaustive efforts to form a government, “Netanyahu is being evasive and attacking us...The State of Israel cannot be held hostage by politicians.”
Bennett stressed that “the people want a government, but Netanyahu prefers elections.” The Yamina leader added that if Netanyahu ultimately fails at forming a right-wing government, “I will work to form a national unity government.”
Netanyahu spoke shortly after Bennett, blaming him of being "willing to do everything in order to be a left-wing prime minister."
Netanyahu said a Bennett-Lapid government would be short-lived, adding that Bennett is prepared to join such a coalition only out of his personal ambition for power, which Netanyahu dubbed "limitless."
The prime minister blasted the idea that the leader of a party who won seven seats in Israel's last election could lead the country, and called on Bennett to support his proposal for a direct election for the premiership.
Earlier on Wednesday, Netanyahu's Likud party slammed Bennett's "Out of control ambitions to become prime minister at any cost."
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"Bennett, whose party has seven seats, is ready to lead a left-wing government backed by 50 left-wing MK's," the party said.
Yesh Atid's leader, Yair Lapid, responded to Likud's statement, saying: "An Israeli unity government is the only thing that can prevent a fifth election, not Netanyahu's tricks or empty promises which nobody believes."
On Monday, the anti-Netanyahu bloc won a key vote to determine the composition of the Knesset arrangements committee.
The committee is responsible for setting the Knesset agenda during the transitional period between an election and the formation of a new government. This means that the committee controls which bills come before the Knesset for a vote during this time, giving the committee's extraordinary influence.
The anti-Netanyahu bloc’s proposal, which passed with 60 votes in favor and 51 against, would give parties two seats on the panel for every six Knesset seats. Consequently, that bloc would get 16 seats and Netanyahu’s bloc only 14, while Naftali Bennett's Yamina would get two seats and Abbas Mansour's United Arab List one. This would give Yamina considerable power to decide the outcome of close votes.
"I thank my partners," Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter after the vote. "The victory in the vote on the arrangements committee is another small step toward an Israeli unity government."