Israeli politicians battling to unseat veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are racing against the clock on the final day of talks to build a governing coalition comprised of bitter ideological rivals. They have until a minute before midnight (20:59 GMT) on Wednesday to cobble together an administration that would end 12 years of rule by Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
The high-stakes push is led by former TV presenter Yair Lapid, a secular centrist, who on Sunday won the crucial support of right-wing religious nationalist Naftali Bennett, a tech multi-millionaire. Lapid is planning to announce by 11:00am (08:00 GMT) on Wednesday that he can form a government, Israeli local news agency reported late on Tuesday.
The Times of Israel reported Lapid’s goal is to have the Knesset speaker schedule a vote to swear in the new coalition on June 9.
In a major announcement on Wednesday morning, Lapid said his party agreed terms with Defence Minister Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party.
A joint statement read they had “agreed on the outlines of the government and core issues relating to the strengthening of democracy and Israeli society”. Gantz would remain as the defence minister in the new cabinet, the parties said.
Deals have also been reached with the left-wing Meretz and centre-left Labour parties as well as with former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, a Lapid spokesman said.
To reach a 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, Lapid and Bennett’s unlikely alliance would also have to include other left and right-wing parties – and would probably need the support of parties representing the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, was tasked with forming a government by President Reuven Rivlin after Netanyahu again failed to win a majority following Israel’s fourth inconclusive election in less than two years.
Lapid has reportedly agreed to allow Bennett, who heads the Yamina party, to serve first as a rotating prime minister in a power-sharing agreement, before taking over halfway through their term.