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Israeli opposition parties form alliance to expel Netanyahu

Middle EastIsraeli opposition parties form alliance to expel Netanyahu

On Wednesday, Israeli opposition parties established an alliance to form a government and remove Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Under the agreement, Naftali Bennett, a leader in the Yamina party, would take the role of prime minister until 2023, when opposition leader Yair Lapid would take over until 2025.  However, journalists say the coalition is comprised of a diverse set of parties whose collaboration remains weak. The Israeli parliament is expected to vote on the agreement next week.

Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, reported to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin that he had arranged to get together a coalition just 38 minutes before the midnight deadline.  Though Lapid operates the command to form the government under the agreement, it is Naftali Bennett — leader of the small right-wing party Yamina and the kingmaker in coalition talks — who is set to become prime minister for the first two years of a four-year term.

Lapid will serve as the foreign minister until the two men exchange roles halfway through the term.  Lapid said the “government will work to serve all the citizens of Israel including those who aren’t members of it, will respect those who oppose it, and do everything in its power to unite all parts of Israeli society.”

The coalition agreement must now pass a vote of confidence in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, before a new government and prime minister are sworn in.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-running Israeli prime minister of a 12-year rule, could be expelled in days

The new government ​consists of a conglomeration of parties from across the political spectrum, from the left-wing Meretz to Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party.

In a memorable moment, the small Islamist party United Arab List also decided to join the coalition, the first time an Arab-Israeli party has joined a coalition. The party is unlikely to have a minister in the government but will have settled agreements with the coalition on issues of paramount importance.

After the March elections, the Israeli President had designated Netanyahu to form a government after the vote within 28 days, per election law. But the Prime Minister was unable to command enough support to control a ​minimum of 61 seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, the Knesset.

The President then commissioned Lapid with forming a government. The talks appeared to fall apart two days into the latest conflict with Hamas-led militants in Gaza last month when Bennett announced he was suspending negotiations due to the violence. But a few days after the ceasefire was reached following 11 bloody days, Bennett and Lapid reignited negotiations.

According to Israeli law, the Knesset must hold a vote of confidence within a week of being formally notified of a new government being formed. This step might not happen until Monday, which means the vote could be held as late as June 14.

In the meantime, Netanyahu remains prime minister until someone else is sworn in. Beyond losing his role as leader of Israel’s government, Netanyahu faces perhaps an even greater threat: an ongoing trial on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust — charges he denies.

If Netanyahu is expelled, it could put to an end any political attempts to avoid the trial and possible jail time by appointing a new attorney general, or by influencing the appointment of certain judges who could affect his trial, experts said.

Netanyahu hit out at Bennett on Sunday for committing what he termed the “fraud of the century,” portraying him as a power-hungry politician who “only cares about himself.” It was a statement that some Israeli political spectators found to be more than ironic, considering Netanyahu’s past political maneuvers.

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