The Knesset is all set to dethrone the longest-serving Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as his aide-turned-rival Naftali Bennett has announced to join the coalition of opposition parties to end Netanyahu’s 12-year rule.
Bennett, who heads his far-right party (Yamina), has made a power-sharing agreement with centrist political party, Yesh Atid, led by Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid.
According to the agreement, Bennett will replace Netanyahu as prime minister and later give way to centrist Lapid in a rotation.
The President of Israel Reuven Rivlin has given Lapid a deadline to form a new coalition government till June 2 (Wednesday) as Israel has been witnessing a political turmoil for more than two years. In duration of the two years, four elections have been held however, the political parties are failing to form a government with a majority of 61 seats–the required number in 120-seat parliament.
Bennet, who is likely to become the next premier, has said that together they (the new coalition government or the unity government) can save the country from a tailspin and return Israel to its course. It is important to note that Netanyahu is also facing corruption charges.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu has lashed out at Bennett for betraying the Israeli right-wing and collaborating with the left-wing. According to him, the coalition plan is “a danger for the security of Israel”.
Earlier, the president also gave a deadline to Nethanyahu’s previous caretaker government–now stands with 54 seats–to secure the required majority in the Knesset which it could not achieve.
Who is Naftali Bennett, the friend-turned-contender of Netanyahu?
Naftali Bennett is a far-right Israeli nationalist who has remained a member of the Knesset several times and served different ministries under Netanyahu’s government. Bennett does not support the two-state solution and is a staunch critic of Palestinian statehood.
In 2013, he said that Israel should kill all Palestinian prisoners while referring to them as terrorists. “I have killed a lot of Arabs in my life – and there is no problem in it,” he added.
In 2018, Bennett proposed “shoot to kill policy” for Palestinians who walk across the boundary between Israel and Gaza. As a defense minister in 2020, he ordered the Israeli authorities to stop testing the residents of the Gaza Strip for COVID-19 during the pandemic.
However, it is being believed that the anti-Netanyahu alliance will also need the support of Palestinian-Israeli parliamentarians to form “unity government”– a mixture of rightist, centrist and leftist political parties.