Saturday, June 19

Israeli opposition leader tells president he can form government | Israel

The Israeli opposition leader has told the country’s president that he can form a government, a critical step that puts Benjamin Netanyahu in his most precarious political position for more than a decade.

After days of frenzied negotiations, Yair Lapid told President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday that he has the support of most opposition parties for what has been called a “government of change,” a mix of bitter ideological rivals. united by a shared desire to overthrow Israel’s oldest leader.

“It is an honor for me to inform you that I have succeeded in forming a government,” Lapid told the president in a letter. He added: “I pledge to you, Mr. President, that this government will work to serve all citizens of Israel, including those who are not members of it, will respect those who oppose it, and will do everything in its power. to unite all parts of Israeli society. “

Crucially, Lapid secured the backing of powerful far-right Jewish politicians, but also a small party of Arab Islamists. who signed about two hours before the deadline. In doing so, the United Arab List became the first party from the country’s significant Arab minority to join a government. Its leader, Mansour Abbas, is a pragmatist and has sought greater resources and rights for the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Lapid’s move does not immediately end Netanyahu’s 12-year stretch in power or conclude a political deadlock that has brought four snap elections since 2019. Before that happens, lawmakers will have to vote on the agreement, which is expected. next week. Then there will be an oath.

Until that happens, Netanyahu is expected to continue his attempts to get lawmakers to defect so Lapid does not have a 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

Under the proposed deal, Lapid will not immediately assume a senior position. Instead, his far-right political and political rival Naftali Bennett, whose support was vital to the coalition’s success, will become prime minister for the first two years.

Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu has been Prime Minister of Israel for a total of 15 years. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun / EPA

The religious nationalist is a staunch defender of the settler movement in the Palestinian territories and has ruled out a Palestinian state. He will join an unlikely variety of parties, including the anti-occupation Labor Party and Meretz, but also Yisrael Beiteinu, a secular hard-line party led by a Moldovan-born settler, Avigdor Lieberman.

While Lapid is a self-proclaimed centrist, he has also described himself as a “security hawk” and provided only lukewarm encouragement to the prospect of ending the occupation. To avoid the breakup, his fragile government would be expected to focus on the economy and the pandemic while avoiding tackling the huge problem of millions of Palestinians living under Israeli rule.

Still, Bennett will have executive powers as prime minister to effect change or consolidate the status quo.

In power for a total of 15 years, from 1996 to 1999, and then since 2009, Netanyahu has been desperately trying to thwart the treatment of his opponents, which could not threaten his political life, but also his freedom.

The 71-year-old is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and is currently fighting three corruption cases – on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust, which he denies. If he entered the opposition, he could be denied parliamentary immunity and the new government could pass legislation that would bar him from holding office in the future.

On Sunday, Netanyahu warned of “a dangerous left government for the state of Israel” and accused his former allies on the right of abandoning their voters.

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