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Bennett Says He Was Wrong About Islamist Party Head: Abbas Is a Brave Leader

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Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, at the Knesset on Wednesday
Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, at the Knesset on WednesdayCredit: Ronen Zvulun / AP
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Bennett says he was wrong about Islamist leader: Abbas is a brave leader

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett said he never though he would form a government with key Arab lawmaker Mansour Abbas, but that he is doing this "for my country."

Speaking in an interview with Channel 12 News, Bennet said that "[d]uring the war and the riots there was something that caught me. Abbas came to the synagogue in Lod [that had been set on fire] during the tensest moments, and said, 'I want to help,'" Bennett said in reference to the violence that broke out in mixed cities during the latest hostilities with Gaza. "I saw a decent man, I saw a brave leader, it must be said. Now, time will tell. I can't guarantee anything. But when he extends a hand and says something very simple: 'I want to take care of Arab Israelis' civilian issues...' If you look at the coalition agreements that we will publish, you will not find a single world of nationalism."

Asked whether he stood by past comments referring to Abbas as a "supporter of terrorism," Bennett answered in the negative.

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Ran Shimoni

Hundreds rally against Bennett-Lapid coalition outside Ayelet Shaked's home

Some 800 people protested near Yamina lawmaker Ayelet Shaked's home on Thursday against her party's decision to form a coalition with Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid. A few dozen people were also present to demonstrate in favor of the coalition. Right-wing broadcaster Noam Fathi addressed the crowd, saying: "Gideon Sa'ar, Ze'ev Elkin, all of you, all of you – you are an embarrassment to the country of Israel, an embarrassment to the people of Israel."

Michael Hauser Tov

Opponents of Lapid-Bennett government rally outside home of Yamina lawmaker Orbach

Around 100 people took part in a Torah study session outside the home of Yamina lawmaker Nir Orbach on Thursday evening as part of an effort to convince him not to agree to join a Bennett-Lapid government. One of the organizers of the event said most of the participants were Religious Zionism voters rather than Yamina voters. Members of Likud also rallied outside Orbach's home, drawing a few dozen people.

Jonathan Lis

Joint List to support vote for Knesset Speaker

Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party began the legislative process on Thursday to try to replace the current speaker of the Knesset, Yariv Levin of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, with Yesh Atid lawmaker Mickey Levy.

Yesh Atid took the step without informing its future coalition partner, Yamina, whose leader, Naftali Bennett, is slated to become prime minister, risking majority Knesset support for the move.

However, later on Thursday, the Joint List – a majority Arab alliance that isn't part of the Lapid-Bennett coalition but a staunch opponent of Netanyahu – announced it supports the move, ensuring a comfortable majority.

Joint List officially requested to hold the vote during the Knesset's next session on Monday, in a move blasted by Netanyahu's Likud party.

Michael Hauser Tov

In first remarks, Netanyahu puts pressure on right-wing parties

Benjamin Netanyahu called on "all Knesset members elected by right-wing votes" to oppose the new coalition announced late Wednesday by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett.

In his first public remarks since the announcement, which could lead to his ouster after 12 years in power, Netanyahu described the "left-wing" Lapid-Bennett government as "dangerous."

In a series on tweets, Netanyahu slammed Bennett for "selling out" to Islamist party United Arab List, for agreeing to some of its demands on house demolitions, unrecognized Bedouin villages and budgets for the Arab community.

United Arab List party officials have repeatedly said that the offers made by Netanyahu's Likud were far more generous than the ones made by Lapid and Bennett. Party leader Mansour Abbas reiterated this claim in interviews he gave on Thursday.

Bennett, set to serve first as prime minister in a rotation deal with Lapid, heads the right-wing Yamina party. The proposed coalition also includes New Hope, headed by former Likud member Gideon Sa'ar, and Yisrael Beiteinu, a liberal right-wing party, alongside other center-left parties.

Michael Hauser Tov

Yamina lawmaker reconsiders support for Knesset speaker replacement

Yamina lawmaker Nir Orbach has asked to withdraw his agreement to replacing Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, shortly after Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party announced it has secured a Knesset majority to appoint the party's Mickey Levy instead.

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, Lapid's main coalition partner, is expected to meet Orbach later on Thursday and discuss the move, which could expedite the swearing-in of the new government.

In rare move, Shin Bet provides security for Bennett

Israel’s internal security service said it started providing Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett with personal security on Thursday, after he signed a coalition deal with Yair Lapid to end Benjamin Netanyahu’s longstanding reign.

This move is unusual as Israel’s internal security service only protects the prime minister, president and leader of the opposition.

On Monday, the Shin Bet warned of an uptick in incitement against Bennett, his no. 2 in Yamina, Ayelet Shaked, and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, and ordered the police and the Knesset security to provide additional protection for Bennett and Shaked. The security for them has been increased to level 5 – one level less than the highest level of security.

Michael Hauser Tov

Lapid-Bennett coalition moves to replace Knesset speaker

A majority of Israeli lawmakers, all from parties in the proposed Lapid-Bennett coalition announced late Wednesday, have formally joined a request to replace Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, paving the way for a vote next week, which in turn would speed up some of the processes required before the new government can be sworn in.

The Lapid-Bennett coalition's candidate for the job is Yesh Atid's Mickey Levy. The request, signed by 61 out of 120 lawmakers, means a vote on the key position is set for the next time the Knesset convenes on Monday.

Ben Samuels

AIPAC congratulates Bennett, Lapid for establishing 'diverse' coalition

AIPAC, The most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in Washington D.C., has issued congratulations to Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett for successfully forming a 'broad and diverse' coalition with lawmakers from across the political spectrum.

"AIPAC congratulates Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett for assembling a broad and diverse coalition—spanning the political spectrum of Zionist and Arab parties—to form an Israeli government pending Knesset approval," the statement read. 

"The formation of this government just two weeks after Iranian-backed terrorists fired more than 4,300 rockets at innocent Israeli civilians further demonstrates the resilience of Israel’s democracy and its commitment to democratic values," it continued.

AIPAC also reiterated its dedication to strengthen ties with the new prospective government and the United States, to "advance our shared interests and values."

Michael Hauser Tov

Abbas demands economic funding, freezing the Kaminitz building law, end to razing Arab houses

United Arab List leader, Mansour Abbas reached several agreements in order to sign onto Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid's coalition.

Abbas demanded that the Kaminitz law, a law that increases enforcement against unauthorized building which critics say unfairly targets Arabs, will not be repealed, yet a freeze in place will be extended until 2024.

Demolition of buildings in the Negev will be stopped for three months, until new agreements are reached.

Three Bedouin villages in the Negev will be recognized within forty-five days and more villages will be examined later. In addition, the police unit that the United Arab List sought to close - will continue to operate.

Most of the agreement include economic clauses, such as assistance and budgeting programs amounting to more than fifty billion shekels that will be rolled out in the coming years.

The breakthrough with Mansour Abbas came about two hours before the mandate.

Leaving the negotiating room, Abbas announced that he "signed after reaching agreements that provide a solution to issues in Arab society, as well as in Israeli society. It was a difficult decision, but we will work hard to make the move a success."

Mansour Abbas will not fill a position in the government.

Labor's Michaeli: We'll be present in Judicial Appointments Committee

Labor party chairwoman Merav Michaeli told the press that the coalition agreement is a success, and that her party will have a presence in the Judicial Appointments Committee, a sticking point in the coalition negotiations between Labor and Yamina. "We've made history," she said. "At any time there will be a presence of the Labor party in this committee, and the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee will also be in Labor hands."

Michael Hauser Tov

Rivlin congratulates Lapid, says expects Knesset to convene as soon as possible

President Reuven Rivlin congratulated Yair Lapid on his success in a tweet on Wednesday night. "I congratulate you @yairlapid and the heads of the Knesset caucuses on your agreement to form a government. We will expect the Knesset to be convened as soon as possible for the government to be ratified as the law requires."

President Reuven Rivlin receives a call from Yair Lapid informing him of Lapid's success in forming a government, June 2, 2021Credit: Kobi Gideon, GPO
Michael Hauser Tov

Lapid announces: I succeeded in forming a coalition

Yesh Atid's leader Yair Lapid announced Wednesday night that he has managed to form a coalition after a series of back-to-back meetings with the leaders of the anti-Netanyahu camp in the Knesset.

Lapid has formally informed President Reuven Rivlin of his success, saying that "The government will do everything it can in order to unite and unify all sections of Israeli society."

"I am honored to inform you that I have managed to form a government. The government will be a rotation government, in accordance with clause 13a in the Basic Law on the Government. I will lead it with MK Naftali Bennett who will be the first to serve as prime minister," Lapid said.

"I give you my word that this government will work in the service of all of Israel's citizens, those that voted for it and those that did not. It will respect its opponents, and will do everything it can to unify and unite all parts of Israeli society," Lapid told President Rivlin.

Lapid's coalition is composed of Yesh Atid, Yamina, Kahol Lavan, New Hope, Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu, Meretz and United Arab List.

New Hope's Gideon Sa'ar and Yamina's Naftali Bennett were the last to sign the coalition agreement with Lapid, shortly following United Arab List's Mansour Abbas.

Michael Hauser Tov

Bennett and Sa'ar sign coalition deal with Lapid

Naftali Bennett's Yamina party and Gideon Sa'ar's New Hope party have agreed to join Yair Lapid's coalition. Bennett will be prime minister first in a premiership rotation deal with Lapid, sending PM Benjamin Netanyahu to the opposition after 12 years in power. Their next challenge: swearing in the new coalition within a week.

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Abbas: we were the last party to agree to support the government

United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas said that the UAL was the last party to sign the coalition agreement.

"We promised that we would be the last ones to agree and sign the document and this is what we did. We understand that all of the other parties have joined this process. We have seen that all of the other parties have signed the document."

Abbas said that “We agreed to form a government after we reached critical agreements on various issues that serve the interests of Arab society.”

He elaborated that these issues extend to various areas including education, welfare, employment, economic development, planning, construction, and crime and violence.

He added that “There are many things in this agreement for the benefit of Arab society and Israeli society in general, especially in the Negev region, which is plagued by many problems, especially the issue of unrecognized villages in the Negev, and the issue of house demolition."

He said that part of the budget has already been allocated to address and resolve these issues. Abbas noted that “This is the first time that an Arab party is a partner in a government. We hope that the whole process will be successful and eventually a government will be formed after 4 elections. We said from the beginning that we are not interested in a fifth election. We want a government to be formed that will serve all the citizens of the country, including the Arab citizens, so we made a difficult decision. There are many disagreements and we understand that, but we must reach an overall agreement.”

Michael Hauser Tov

A government will be formed tonight, Labor source says

A source in Labor said that a government will be established tonight.

They also said that appointments of Supreme Court judges will be decided by all party leaders in the coalition.

It was added that “We will make a joint decision and tonight we will form a new government that will replace Netanyahu's rule.”

Michael Hauser Tov

Michaeli makes counteroffer to Yamina, which Shaked rejects

Labor leader Merav Michaeli agreed to the rotation agreement proposed by Yamina, saying “At this sensitive time I decided to agree to a rotation agreement regarding the Judicial Appointments Committee in a way that would reflect a balance between the blocs.”

However, Michaeli made a counteroffer, proposing that she serve on the committee first while Naftali Bennett is prime minister, and that Ayelet Shaked would serve on the committee after when Yair Lapid is prime minister.

Michaeli said further that she had already accepted that the justice portfolio would go to the right and that Ayelet Shaked would receive the interior portfolio.

"I hope," Michaeli said, "that the right-wing bloc will stop playing around and form a government."

Shaked subsequently rejected Michaeli’s counteroffer.

Protestors gather outside hotel where coalition talks are underway

Hundreds of protestors are demonstrating outside of the Kfar Maccabiah Hotel, where negotiations are underway to form a Bennett-Lapid government.

On one side of the road are protestors who oppose the formation of the government and on the other are those who support it, with police stationed between them.

Leaders from various settlements are expected to arrive to support the protestors who oppose the formation of a government, following a meeting with the head of the Binaymin regional council, Israel Ganz.

Ganz reportedly said that the coalition agreement includes a clause that would freeze the construction of settlements, including roads and infrastructure.

He said “we will go tonight to Maccabiah…we will not allow this to happen. It is an abandonment of the residents and the settlements.”

Bennett and Abbas to meet

Yamina Leader Naftali Bennet and United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas are meeting with the intention of finalizing a coalition deal with only five hours remaining before Lapid's mandate to form a government expires.

Michael Hauser Tov

Lapid gathering signatures from party leaders to form government

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid is trying to gather signatures from party leaders on a coalition agreement, despite the fact that not all intra-coalition disputes.

In recent hours, Lapid received the signatures from the leaders of Kahol and Lavan, Yisrael Beiteinu, Labor and Meretz. Lapid obtained the signatures from the heads of the various parties in the presence of a lawyer and in accordance with instructions received from the president. He still requires the signatures of other party heads.

A document that contains the signatures of all of the party leaders will allow Lapid to legally declare his ability to form a government before his mandate expires, albeit without resolving all party disputes. However, it is quite possible that Yamina and the United Arab List will refuse to sign the document unless they resolve existing disagreements with Lapid beforehand.

This is not necessarily unusal. Sources from Likud told Haaretz on Wednesday that in previous Netanyahu-led governments, there were still loose ends even after Netanyahu told the president that he was able to form a government. In fact, the significance of the document is that in spite of unresolved disagreements, it illustrates that there exists the ability and intent to form a government.

There are two major disagreements that still threaten the formation of a government: the first issue pertains to the United Arab List and concerns the Kaminitz Law and the autonomy of Bedouins in the Negev. Yesh Atid officials said recently that progress had been made with the United Arab List on this issue.

The second major disagreement is in regard to the Judicial Appointments Committee. Earlier on Wednesday, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and his number two Ayelet Shaked proposed, as a compromise with Labor’s Merav Michaeli, that membership on the committee be rotated.

According to the proposal, Shaked would have a two-year term while Bennett is prime minister, and when Lapid becomes prime minister, the committee seat will be given to Michaeli. In addition, there would be a Labor lawmaker serving alongside Shaked and a New Hope lawmaker serving alongside Michaeli in order to maintain a balance between left-wing and right-wing representation on the committee.

Michaeli's representatives slammed the offer, saying that it has “no basis in reality.”

Michael Hauser Tov

Michaeli slams Yamina proposal

Labor leader Merav Michaeli has responded to Yamina’s proposed compromise regarding the seat on the Judicial Appointments Committee saying that “It's a spin like all the other spins” and that it has “no basis in reality.”

She added that Labor is negotiating with Lapid and their agreement is with him.

Michael Hauser Tov

Yamina proposes rotation agreement for Judicial Appointments Committee

Yamina has proposed a rotation agreement for the Judicial Appointments Committee as a compromise: during Bennett's premiership, Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked will serve on the committee alongside a Labor lawmaker, while during Lapid's premiership Labor leader Merav Michaeli will serve on the committee alongside a New Hope lawmaker. Michaeli has not yet responded to the proposal.

The proposal is intended to resolve the dispute over the much coveted committee.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid had promised a seat on the committee to Michaeli during coalition negotiations, however, Shaked is now demanding the seat in exchange for her agreeing to serve in the coalition.

The possibility of Shaked being appointed to the panel over Michaeli led Labor to consider supporting the government from the outside instead of joining the coalition.

In other news, Yesh Atid says that there have been advancements in negotiations with the United Arab List.

Arab lawmaker Abbas says Netanyahu did not change his offer

United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas said on Wednesday afternoon that Benjamin Netanyahu did not improve his offer to the Islamist lawmaker, playing down allegations that he changed his demands in negotiations with Yair Lapid.

In an interview with Channel 12, Abbas said that his party "wants to achieve things for the benefit of Arab society. We have no disputes about roles and authority."

Abbas said that in the current negotiations with Lapid, he "put forward demands regarding the Arab citizens of the country who want a solution to the housing crisis and the municipal status of unrecognized localities in the Negev.”

"We stick to this principle and our demands are clearly known. They are not difficult,” Abbas concluded.

Michael Hauser Tov

Labor might support gov't from outside if Shaked appointed to Judicial Appointments Committee

The leader of Labor, lawmaker Merav Michaeli, has given Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid  the green light to inform the president that he had formed a government, the two parties said in a joint statement.

Yesh Atid and Labor announced on Friday that they reached an agreement to form a government, with Michaeli slated to be one of nine members of the Judicial Appointments Committee.

However, in recent days, Yamina's No. 2 Ayelet Shaked has expressed her desire to take the position. The possibility that Shaked is appointed to the panel has led Labor to consider supporting the government from the outside instead of joining the coalition.

Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett with Labour leader Merav MichaeliCredit: Emil Salman
Allison Kaplan Sommer

Isaac Herzog wins Israeli presidential election, defeating Miriam Peretz

Isaac Herzog is set to become Israel's 11th president after winning Wednesday's election against Miriam Peretz, in a secret ballot among the country's 120 lawmakers.

Eighty-seven lawmakers voted for Herzog, while 27 voted for Peretz. He will officially replace outgoing President Reuven Rivlin next month, with his seven-year term beginning on July 9.

Herzog is as close to Israeli aristocracy as it gets. He is already familiar with the layout of the President’s Residence in Jerusalem as the son of Irish-born Chaim Herzog, Israel’s sixth president who served a decade-long two terms from 1983 to 1993. Before that, Herzog Sr. served as Israel’s UN representative for three years.

Isaac Herzog arrives in Knesset, May 2021.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Michael Hauser Tov

Lapid fails to announce new gov’t by 11 A.M.; Knesset speaker might delay confirmation vote

Lapid failed to inform the president that he has managed to form a government before 11 A.M., contrary to earlier pronouncements.

Although Lapid's deadline for informing the president is midnight, the anti-Netanyahu bloc wanted to inform Rivlin before the beginning of the Knesset plenary session in order to oblige Knesset speaker Yariv Levin to hold the swearing-in ceremony of the government before Wednesday next week.

There are fears among the anti-Netanyahu bloc that this delay could enable Levin to delay the confirmation vote further.



Michael Hauser Tov

Key Arab leader, right-wing parties at odds as negotiations continue

Key Arab lawmaker Mansour Abbas and right-wing parties remain at loggerheads over the controversial Kaminitz Law, which increases enforcement against unauthorized construction. Negotiations between the parties to resolve the dispute are ongoing.

According to negotiators, different propositions for amendments came up in the overnight meeting on Tuesday, but Abbas' position hardened overnight on Tuesday and he is now refusing to back down on his demand to repeal the law. Both Naftali Bennett's Yamina and Gideon Sa'ar's New Hope, however, are refusing to agree to the demand.

The Kaminitz Law, which mainly penalizes Arab communities, was a key election pledge for Mansour Abbas.

Mansour Abbas on his way to meet with Yair Lapid, yesterdayCredit: Tomer Appelbaum
Michael Hauser Tov

This is what a Lapid-Bennett government would look like

The coalition of parties seeking to form a new government without Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party have hammered out an agreement on the assignment of senior cabinet positions if the coalition actually comes into being.

Naftali Bennett: The Yamina party chairman would be prime minister first, then foreign minister

Yair Lapid: The Yesh Atid leader would first serve as foreign minister, then prime minister.

Click to read the full article

Michael Hauser Tov

The obstacles awaiting Israel's new Lapid-Bennett government

Israel's new government, led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, will be forced to deal with a long list of internal disagreements stemming from the very different ideologies of the parties making up the coalition. That is, if they are ever actually sworn in.

There have been attempts to avoid addressing these disagreements – for example, the freeze on private legislation or the submission of bills only with broad agreement – but for government ministries there are a number of disputed issues, which the new government will be unable to ignore.

Click to read the full article

Yossi Verter

As Netanyahu mimics Trump in last days, fear of Capitol-style coup is rising

In his final days in power, Benjamin Netanyahu has been looking and sounding like Donald Trump did last winter. The closer the inauguration of a new U.S. president came, the stranger and more pathetic Trump’s utterances became. He insisted “everybody knows” that really, he had won by a large majority. The elections were rigged, he charged, and in the “real” vote, he came out on top.

Netanyahu’s version of his friend’s weeping and wailing can be heard both from him and his toadies – “a Bennett-Lapid government is the fraud of the century,” “everyone knows there’s a right-wing government,” “this leftist government endangers the state of Israel, the people of Israel and the soldiers of Israel.” All that’s missing is the Holocaust. Be patient.

Click to read the full analysis

Michael Hauser Tov

Israeli lawmakers to vote for new president in secret ballot

The Knesset will convene at 11:00 A.M. on Wednesday in a special session to choose Israel’s 11th president, with Isaac Herzog competing against Miriam Peretz for the votes of the 120 lawmakers.

Front-runner Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Jewish Agency and former head of the Labor Party, is also the son of a previous president, Chaim Herzog. He is expected to win backing from legislators of both the right and the left after he amassed the signatures of 27 MKs representing all the parties in the Knesset, except for the Arab ones.

Click to read the full article

Michael Hauser Tov

Gantz’s party reaches agreement with Yesh Atid

Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan has reached a coalition agreement with Yesh Atid Wendesday overnight.

Kahol Lavan is expected to receive the following ministerial portfolios; defense, science, immigration and absorption as well as culture and sports.

Gantz will thus remain defense minister, while Kahol Lavan lawmakers Pnina Tamano-Shata and Chili Tropper will remain minister of immigration and absorption and minister of culture and sports, respectively.

Michael Hauser Tov

Dispute over judicial appointment delays gov’t formation

A dispute between Yamina and Labor over a spot on the Judicial Appointments Committee is continuing to delay the formation of a new government.

Ayelet Shaked from the Yamina party is demanding a place on the committee, which was promised to Labor leader Merav Michaeli by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in previous negotiations.

The Labor Party continues to object to Shaked’s demand, which she is making as a condition for her entering the government.

Shaked is expected to be appointed interior minister in the future government. However, a source in Yesh Atid told Haaretz that the remaining differences are minor, and that “If Bennett wants to be prime minister” it’s up to him to get Shaked on board.

Michael Hauser Tov

Lapid aims to announce new government with Bennett at the helm

As negotiations to secure a coalition continue, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett are expected to announce a government before a Wednesday deadline expires, sending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the opposition benches after 12 years in power. This would mean the confidence vote for the new government will be slated for next Wednesday at the latest.

In case talks are delayed and no final agreements are reached by that time, the Knesset speaker could formally inform the parliament of the new government on Monday, effectively postponing the vote by another week.

Second Joint List member to vote against Lapid-Bennett government

Hadash, an joint Arab-Jewish party and one of three members of the Joint List alliance of predominantly Arab parties, said on Tuesday that its three lawmakers will vote against Lapid-Bennett government.

"We are not dealing with changing personas, but with changing policies, eradicating racism and opposing the occupation," Hadash said in a statement on Tuesday.

Alongside Hadash, another member of the Joint List, Balad – with only one lawmaker in the current Knesset – also said it will vote against the proposed government. Ta'al, headed by Ahmad Tibi, has yet to announce any decision on the matter.

Ofer Aderet

'We'll Never Support Lapid' and Other Promises Bennett's About to Break in Coalition Talks

Naftali Bennett during a press conference in Jerusalem, earlier this month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

While Naftali Bennett declared on several occasions that “It’s important to fight fake news,” an examination of the promises Yamina's chairman is breaking by joining Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in a unity government shows that Bennett himself is responsible for not a little fake news.

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