Fifty-six Knesset members recommended to President Reuven Rivlin that the mandate for forming a government be given to Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid. The list of those recommending Lapid includes all the members of his own faction, Kahol Lavan, Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, Yisrael Beiteinu, Meretz, Labor and five out of six members of the Joint List (Ta’al and Hadash, without Balad).
The United Arab List told the president that it was not recommending anyone as prime minister, but clarified that it would cooperate “in a positive manner” with whomever was tasked with forming a government. “If the United Arab List can complement the parties forming a government it will do so, assuming the demands it made during earlier negotiations are met.”
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Thus, with the support of this party’s four Knesset members, it appears that Lapid enjoys the support of both left and right, Jews and Arabs. It seems that Lapid is but a small step away from a coalition that speaks change: an end to the 12-year rule of Benjamin Netanyahu and, no less than that, a turn toward Israeli unity.
The president indeed decided to task Lapid with the job. The question now is what will Naftali Bennett do. The Yamina chairman did not recommend Lapid, asking the president to task him with the job. This, of course, did not prevent Likud from humiliating him and depicting him as a leftist. “Bennett refused to commit to forming a right-wing government, insisting on maintaining negotiations for forming a left-wing government,” in the words of a Likud announcement.
Bennett is facing some difficult days. A few days ago, the Knesset security officer ordered that his house in Ra’anana be given extra protection, after threats on his life were received. He faces a struggle within his own party. Yamina MK Amichai Chikli wrote him on Wednesday: “We made a commitment not to crown Yair Lapid as prime minister under any circumstances and that we would not sit in a government with Meretz.”
According to Bennett’s statements on Wednesday, it seems he’s trying to break the impasse without going all the way. Based on his justified wish to avoid a fifth election, he called on members of right-wing parties to “be bold” and join a unity government. Instead of continuing with “another election and another election while businesses are collapsing all around,” he preferred “to establish a broad emergency government, indeed a challenging one, but one that could pull the cart out of the mud.”
On the assumption that his colleagues on the right will not join the anticipated unity government, he will be put to a great test: Is he strong enough to rebuff the pressure exerted on him by Netanyahu and his followers; is he committed to combating the culture of divisiveness and incitement waged by a person accused of criminal malfeasance, one who has mortgaged this country’s future to finance his own? Will he be able to take the necessary step and join Lapid, and thus halt the country’s deterioration that has taken place under Netanyahu’s regime?
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The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.