New Hope Party leader Gideon Sa’ar on Tuesday urged Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to “put the ego aside,” in an apparent call to let Yamina leader Naftali Bennett take the post of Prime Minister in a possible rotation agreement in a new government.
But Lapid insisted that bloc parties dedicated to ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must first recommend him as their candidate for prime minister, so President Reuven Rivlin accuses him of form a government. Once that happened, Lapid said, there would be “nothing that I don’t want to consider.”
By then, Sa’ar warned in response, “it might be too late. ”
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Lapid, whose 17-seat centrist party is the largest in the ‘change bloc’ seeking to replace Likud leader Netanyahu as prime minister, has met several other faction leaders in recent days as part of the strengthening efforts of the coalition. It has so far been endorsed by the Yisrael Beytenu (7 seats), Labor (7) and Meretz (6) parties to form the next government – for a total of 37 backers. The joint list of 6 can also recommend Lapid.
Netanyahu, whose Likud won 30, can also expect endorsement from Shas (9), United Torah Judaism (7) and Religious Sionism (6) – 52 seats in all.
Before the March 23 election, Bennett ruled out sitting in a government led by Lapid, as did Saar, of which New Hope has 6 seats.
Yamina only has 7 seats but hasn’t committed to either block, positioning Bennett as a potential kingmaker. Mansour Abbas’ conservative Islamic Ra’am party, with 4 seats, is also undecided. Benny Gantz said on Tuesday that his Blue and White party (8 seats) would “automatically” support Lapid, provided that support lifted him to a majority of 61 in the Knesset, which has 120 members.
New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 23, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg / Flash90)
“On election night… I announced that we will work without ego to form a government of change,” Sa’ar tweeted Tuesday. “Today it is my duty to say: the game of collecting recommendations will not lead to the formation of a government, only a determined and swift effort to establish a realistic parliamentary majority will.
He added: “The window of opportunity is limited. Lapid, I put my ego aside. Now it’s your turn. ”
Saar, a former minister, left Likud in December to form New Hope, with the aim of replacing Netanyahu. Shortly after its formation, New Hope polled up to 21 seats, but the party steadily poured its support to finish with just six in last week’s election.
Lapid quickly responded to Sa’ar, saying “there is nothing I do not want to consider” to replace Netanyahu as prime minister.
“I said during the campaign and I repeat it now: the country is more important than my personal ambitions or those of anyone else,” he wrote on Facebook.
But the Yesh Atid leader said the change bloc’s goal over the coming week should be to ensure Rivlin does not charge Netanyahu with forming a government after next week’s consultations with representatives of the factions to find out who they are supporting as prime minister.
“In order for this not to happen, all parties in the change bloc must recommend Yesh Atid,” he said. “By the time the process begins, everything is on the table. We are ready to make painful concessions, the important thing is to form a government of change and to work to heal the country from two years of social and political crisis.
Sa’ar responded, saying that Lapid’s proposal was “upside down”.
“The time has come to step aside. Then it may be too late, ”Sa’ar warned.
The back-and-forth came as Channel 13 news claimed that representatives for Lapid and Bennett had agreed in principle to step down as prime minister, but the two remain at odds over who will be prime minister.
A key concern shared by the two is that if they form a government and Netanyahu leaves politics, then the other will be able to form an alternative coalition without relinquishing the post of prime minister, according to the report.
The network also said Bennett was due to meet Lapid and Netanyahu by the end of the week.
A day earlier, the TV station said Bennett refused to pledge to oust Netanyahu unless he was given the prime minister post, which Lapid would not give in, while Yamina’s leader was not speaking with him. the leader of Yesh Atid.
Lapid met with Blue and Blue party leader Gantz and leader of Raam Abbas on Sunday. Abbas, like Bennett, has not engaged in either bloc since the election and could tip the scales in either party’s favor.
Yamina criticized Lapid on Sunday, after his meetings with Gantz and Abbas, saying the leader of Yesh Atid intended to form “a left-wing government with the full support of the Arabs.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the Central Elections Committee verified the election results and said no significant evidence of electoral fraud had been found. The results will be presented to Rivlin at a ceremony on Wednesday.
Rivlin will hold two days of consultations starting April 5, the same day the proof stage begins in Netanyahu’s transplant trial, on the identity of the parties to form the next government. He is expected to task a legislator to do so by April 7.
The final election results last week left no clear path to a majority for Netanyahu or his rivals, with the fourth election in two years ending inconclusive. However, the prospect of a fifth election has sparked speculation that unlikely bedfellows may come together in an attempt to oust Netanyahu or, alternatively, allow him to retain power.