Who is Israel's opposition leader?
Israel: Opposition leader Yair Lapid is commissioned to form a government after Netanyahu's failure
It is now up to the opposition to end the era of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, it is still too early to say goodbye to Israel's long-time head of government.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has left no stone unturned in the past few weeks to secure another term in office. He tried to lure MPs from the opposition camp with posts and sent emissaries to persuade right-wing extremist allies to accept a government with the tolerance of a party belonging to the Arab minority. He even went so far as to allow the head of a potential coalition partner to take precedence in the office of prime minister for the first time.
Shortly before the Tuesday midnight deadline, however, Netanyahu admitted that he had failed to form a government. The permanent political crisis that has been going on for two years is now entering the next round. President Reuven Rivlin met representatives of the parties represented in the Knesset on Wednesday to hear their recommendations. The representatives of 56 of the total of 120 MPs voted for opposition leader Yair Lapid as a candidate for the office of head of government. Thereupon Rivlin gave him the mandate to form a government that evening.
Opposition leader promises government of national unity
Lapid's party Yesh Atid (There is a future) emerged from the elections at the end of March as the second strongest force with 17 seats. He has already had exploratory talks over the past few weeks. He announced a "government of national unity". It won't be easy. The foundation has been laid, said Lapid this week. The opposition has a historic opportunity.
That's true, but it wouldn't be the first time that Netanyahu's opponents would miss the chance to send the prime minister, who has ruled longer than anyone before him, to the opposition bench. The five voices that Lapid lacks sound like little. But in the fragmented Israeli party landscape - 13 parties are represented in the Knesset - these can be worlds apart. In order to achieve a majority, Lapid would also have to bring MPs from the Arab minority on board or form a minority government that is tolerated by them.
Among the right-wing parties that have now spoken out in favor of Lapid, there are of course enough MPs who oppose this. Benny Gantz from Blau-Weiss also failed because of this, which is why he finally formed a coalition with Netanyahu a year ago.
Failure has a name: Netanyahu
The head of government blamed his former companion Naftali Bennett for the failure of his attempt to form a government, who had prevented a "really right-wing" government. Although Benetts Yamina only won seven seats, Yamina would like to become prime minister himself. Failure, of course, has a different name: Netanyahu. If the latter were willing to renounce power, there would hardly be anything in the way of a right-wing government around the Likud. The 71-year-old is currently standing trial for corruption and abuse of power. That is why representatives of the right, such as Gideon Saar, who separated from Likud and founded his own party, are now rejecting a government under Netanyahu. The tragedy at a pilgrimage site in northern Israel, which left 45 dead on Friday, has intensified criticism of his administration.
In addition, Netanyahu has broken his word with coalition partners so often that hardly any politician trusts his promises. But this time the master of political machinations also failed because of his latest trick. In the run-up to the elections, he worked behind the scenes to get three far-right parties to join forces on a list. The alliance, which goes by the name of Religious Zionism, includes parties that want to turn Israel into a theocracy, reject equal rights for Arabs, want to drive out Palestinians and approve of murders of them. At the same time, Netanyahu was flirting with Mansur Abbas, the head of the moderate Islamist Raam party.
The right-wing extremists remain true to themselves
However, the spirits that Netanyahu summoned ultimately refused to obey him. In a long post on his Facebook page, the head of the triumvirate, Bezalel Smotrich, mocked the Likud's efforts to convince him and his partners to enter into a coalition with the Islamists. But that is dangerous and nothing less than blasphemy. Whether Abbas would have accepted it is written on a whole different sheet of paper.
Netanyahu is counted after the fiasco, but he will remain in office until further notice. Should the opposition fail to achieve a majority either, the Israelis will be called to the polls a fifth time in two years.
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