Gil Cohen-Magen, Menahem Kahana, Debbie Hill/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Israel is on the cusp of having its first government in 12 years that isn’t led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Netanyahu and his allies are working hard to prevent that from happening.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid is publicly cautious about meeting a Wednesday night deadline to solidify an ideologically diverse governing coalition, but the shape of a potential government has already emerged.
Naftali Bennett, a former Netanyahu protégé, would be prime minister for the first two years of a new “change” government, with Lapid taking over for the following two years — assuming the coalition government lasts that long. Defense Minister Benny Gantz would likely stay on in his current role; his power-sharing agreement with Netanyahu collapsed last year before he took his turn as prime minister. Small potential coalition partners were haggling until 3 a.m. Tuesday over which parties would get minor ministries like agriculture and rural development, The New York Times reports.
Netanyahu reacted furiously to Bennett’s announcement Sunday night that he and his hard-right Yamina party would work with Lapid to form a governing coalition. Netanyahu attacked Bennett on TV, and his supporters took to the airwaves to brand Bennett and fellow Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked as traitors. On Sunday, parliament security approved a personal bodyguard for Shaked, a former justice minister in Netanyahu’s Cabinet; Naftali got a personal security detail earlier this month.
Lapid said he, Naftali, Shaked, Israeli’s attorney general, and some political reporters have all gotten death threats due to Netanyahu’s incitement. Small groups of pro-Netanyahu protesters gathered outside Naftali’s and Shaked’s homes Sunday, branding them “Treasonous Lefties.” Israeli political analysts predict that Netanyahu, desperate to stay in power as he faces criminal corruption charges, will keep up a hard-pressure campaign to convince conservative lawmakers to abandon the coalition before it’s approved by the Knesset, or parliament, The Washington Post reports.
If Netanyahu derails this government, he would likely stay on as caretaker prime minister until a fifth election in two years. Avoiding another election and ending Netanyahu’s long tenure are two of the few unifying goals of Lapid’s coalition. Along with Bennett, two other coalition leaders were also Netanyahu allies. “It’s almost like a Greek tragedy,” Rachel Azaria, a centrist former lawmaker, told the Times. “There’s the king, and he loses the faith of everyone that was loyal. He backstabs them, they backstab him.”