The mandate that President Reuven Rivlin gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to form a government expires at midnight Tuesday. As of Monday evening, it appears that all of Netanyahu’s efforts during the 28-day mandate period were for nought, and he will not be able to put together a coalition.
Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party never wavered, not even for a moment, in its commitment to replace Netanyahu as prime minister; Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party was also determined to put an end to his rule.
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Netanyahu realizes that his situation is difficult, which is why he declared Monday that he would allow Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett serve as prime minister for the first year as part of a rotation agreement between them. But Netanyahu’s word, as always, is meaningless. His only remaining option is to form a right-wing government comprising his Likud party, the Haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, Yamina and Religious Zionism, with the support of the United Arab List.
Although Netanyahu has the support of all of these parties – including Yamina, as Bennett made clear Monday (“You don’t have to persuade me; bring a government, we’re prepared to help”) – the prime minister has a problem: In order to form this coalition, he needs to convince Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich to “assimilate politically” and join a government that relies on the United Arab List.
But Smotrich, loyal to his racist-ultranationalist principles, made it clear Monday, for the umpteenth time, that he refuses to be a part of a government that is supported by the Islamist UAL. So long as Smotrich maintains this stance, Netanyahu has no government.
Unlike Netanyahu, Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid believes that he is capable of putting together a coalition. At a party caucus meeting Monday, he said, “Two days hence we can swear in a new government. It won’t be perfect, but it will be a government that will take responsibility and deal with running the country.”
Currently, 45 Knesset members support Lapid as prime minister. That number does not include Bennett and his Yamina colleagues, who still have to decide whether they are ready for a change, and to say goodbye to Netanyahu.
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Even if his government is not yet fully baked, and even if he needs more than two days to have it sworn in, Lapid is now the one with the best chance to succeed in this mission. That’s why there is no reason for him to recommend to the president that Bennett – whose party has only seven Knesset seats and who is flirting with both sides from a position of political blackmail – be given the mandate.
After 28 days of political wandering, endless spin and a refusal to recognize his pitiful situation, Netanyahu’s time is up. Rivlin must give the mandate to Lapid Tuesday night.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.