Unlikely Israeli Political Coalition Poised To Oust Netanyahu

Negotiations continued Monday in Israel over an improbable political coalition poised to dethrone the nation's longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Unlikely Israeli Political Coalition Poised To Oust Netanyahu

The attempt to put an end to Netanyahu's rule, openly announced Sunday night by hard-right celebration leader Naftali Bennett, has been welcomed with a sudden cross-section of right-wing and right-wing Israelis, as Netanyahu and his allies fight fiercely to keep him in power before a looming Wednesday deadline to get a new coalition to be reached.

If lawmakers triumph, Bennett, a one-time Netanyahu aide who now heads Israel's tiny Yamina Party, could take the prime minister's seat as part of a coalition government sharing power with centrist politician Yair Lapid, a former TV news anchor and also finance minister whose Yesh Atid is the second largest of Israel's many political parties. The two could take turns as prime minister if the fragile coalition manages to endure for long , with Bennett going first.

The coalition would unite parties from across the political spectrum which normally disagree on many political issues but have seemingly united on the need to proceed in the Netanyahu era. Their success will depend on the conservative Arab celebration known as the United Arab List or Ra'am, that would be the first Arab-led party to take part in a coalition government in Israel.

Bennett and Lapid have until late Wednesday to secure the aid of 61 members of their 120-seat Knesset, Israel's parliament. Then, parliament would need to vote in favor of this new government within a week. As the hours tick down, Netanyahu and his allies have resisted an intense pressure campaign, urging fellow conservatives against endorsing Bennett's proposed authorities.

After Bennett's announcement Sunday night, Netanyahu made a nine-minute allure to right-wing Israelis, characterizing the budding coalition as a threat to Israel's security and warning lawmakers to not support what he called a"dangerous, leftist government."

"If you're a right-winger, then you don't vote for a left handed authorities. That is the simple truth," Netanyahu said. "Do not cheat your voters and yourselves."

Bennett, 49, has been a rising star in conservative Israeli politics for nearly ten decades. After serving as a special forces commando from the Israeli Defense Forces, he earned millions as a technology entrepreneur in the U.S. before returning to Israel to begin his political career.

He functioned as Netanyahu's chief of staff for two years prior to Netanyahu became prime minister and was an ally in the years since.

Sunday was the first time Bennett broke publicly with his former mentor. His move to partner with Lapid and his centrist Yesh Atid celebration has angered some fans of Netanyahu.

"Bennett's capacity to lie in the front of the cameras without blinking is simply amazing," said spiritual Jewish nationalist lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich, a staunch ally of Netanyahu. "For a month and a halfhe has knowingly and intentionally sabotaged attempts to form a right-wing government, and since he asserts that it is impossible to form one and defects to the left with supporters of terrorism."

Though Bennett's Yamina Party is considered more conservative than Netanyahu's Likud, countless right-wing activists protested in the homes of Bennett allies as reports of a possible coalition with left-leaning parties stuffed the Israeli media.

Israeli press reported that Knesset guards chose Sunday to increase security for Bennett ally Ayelet Shaked later 300 people protested outside her house in Tel Aviv, some with signs reading"leftist traitors."

In an announcement to his faction published Monday, Lapid called Netanyahu's address"reckless and unhinged" and added that he, along with Shaked and Bennett, have faced threats of murder and violence in recent days.

"The simple fact that somebody argues with you doesn't make them an enemy," Lapid said. "A country that's divided and violent will not be able to bargain with Iran or with the economy. A leadership that protects us against one another injuries our ability to deal with the challenges we confront."

While negotiations and chaos unfolded one of the political group, regular Israelis from across the ideological spectrum seemed to welcome the prospect of new leadership following 12 years of Netanyahu.

Sitting in a coffee shop in Jerusalem the afternoon following Bennett's announcement, friends Roni Shahino, 25, and Shira Lehman, 26, who described themselves as religious and politically conservative, said they had been excited about a Bennett government.

Shahino, a resident of a Jewish settlement near Ramallah, the Palestinian financial capital of the West Bank, was among the 6 percent of Israelis to vote Bennett's Yamina in the most recent election. Although Lehman most recently searched for Netanyahu, generally called"Bibi" in Israel, she said she would support Bennett as well.

"Bibi has experience. Bennett doesn't have expertise. Bennett deserves to have a opportunity to get in to get experience," Lehman said. "And it could be that the change is great, regardless of who comes after Bibi."

Rimon Lavi, 77, described his political tastes as"left" because he emptied his cats' litter box at Jerusalem Monday morning, confessed that Bennett and the delicate coalition are unlikely to shift Israeli politics as far to the left as he would like.

But the simple fact that a right-wing celebration was willing to form a coalition with groups representing innovative, centrist and Arab voters,'' he said, currently amounted to a revolution in a country where politics have been dominated by one person for more than a decade.

[Anyone] who can bring a change in the political situation in Israel is welcome -- for a short moment."

However, for many Palestinians,'' Bennett -- a former settler who vowed to"do everything in my power to make sure [Palestinians] never receive a country" -- is seen, at best, as improbable to alter Israel's stance toward the long-running stalemate.

"However, his hands will be tied together with his coalition partners and [the] U.S. administration, which will not tolerate intense right-wing policies."

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