Israel: Netanyahu opponents in race against time to form government

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By Euronews  with AP
Yemina party leader Naftali Bennett (left) and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid
Yemina party leader Naftali Bennett (left) and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Yonatan Sindel

Opponents of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are racing against time to finalise a coalition government ahead of a midnight deadline on Wednesday.

If they can form a government it will end the Likud leader’s 12-year rule of Israel, the longest of any prime minister in the country’s history.

Israel has held four elections in two years, leaving it in a state of political deadlock while Netanyahu faces a trial for corruption.

His opponents have joined forces to try to form a government and oust him from power, but while centrist Yair Lapid and ultranationalist Naftali Bennett have agreed to rotate the premiership between them, there are still disagreements over some political appointments.

They are entering the final hours to reach an agreement before the deadline, and Israeli media reports that Lapid was likely to announce an agreement sometime Wednesday.

He faces a midnight deadline to inform Israel's largely ceremonial President Reuven Rivlin that he has formed a majority coalition of at least 61 seats in Israel's Knesset, or parliament. The assembly would then have a week to hold a vote of confidence.

If Lapid misses the midnight deadline, the country will almost certainly go into a fifth election in just over two years, and Netanyahu would have yet another chance to hold onto his position.

Netanyahu's Likud won the most seats in the March 23 election, but he was unable to form a majority with his natural allies.

Crucially, a far-right party allied with Netanyahu refused to join forces with a small Arab party that emerged as something of a kingmaker.

Netanyahu had hoped to extend his long rule and battle the corruption charges from the prime minister's office.

An emergency government formed last year between Netanyahu and former military chief Benny Gantz to battle the coronavirus pandemic quickly became mired in political bickering and collapsed in December. That government remains in place as caretaker.