The Game of Thrones surrounding the establishment of an Israeli government shifted just about every minute today as the deadline for Yair Lapid to recommend a coalition to form the next Knesset draws near.
But by 8 p.m. Israel time we may have a final decision. Yamina head Naftali Bennett said he will deliver a speech during primetime news tonight – and is expected to announce that he will join Lapid and form a government that will oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The government would still need Mansour Abbas and his Islamist Ra’am party with his four seats to push the coalition over the 61-seat majority. At the moment, analysts believe that Abbas will agree.
But as we mentioned, the scene has shifted frequently throughout the day.
The right-wing Yamina party convened a fateful meeting this afternoon – with no aides and no mobile phones allowed in the room – to presumably consider an offer from Netanyahu to split the premier position into three rotations – with Gideon Sa’ar, head of the New Hope party; Bennett and Netanyahu himself.
It would be a clear-cut right-wing government.
But Sa'ar apparently rejected the offer immediately.
Bennett, it appears, also will reject the offer and prevent a fifth round of elections.
This morning, it all came down to two people: Ayelet Shaked, the No. 2 in Yamina, and Sa’ar, head of the New Hope party. Yamina leader Naftali Bennett – who up until this morning had been hailed as the kingmaker – gave Shaked an ultimatum this morning: “You have until 10 to form a right-wing government. If you can’t, we go with the change bloc and Yair Lapid.”
Bennett was expected to announce at 10 a.m. that he was going to join Lapid, but as 10 a.m. approached, Netanyahu threw another curveball into Lapid’s tenuously held-together bloc: He offered Sa’ar and Bennett each a rotation as prime minister if they would abandon Lapid and come join a Likud-led government.
Despite being under pressure to accept the offer, Sa'ar has apparently rejected it saying it was another one of Netanyahu's tricks. He said he is committed to overturning the Netanyahu government.
Under the apparent terms of a deal with Lapid, Bennett would be Israel’s next prime minister and would serve for two years and three months during which time Lapid would serve as foreign minister. Then, Lapid would become prime minister in September 2023.
On Friday, Netanyahu released a three-minute video he called “Genuine Alarm” – playing on the Hebrew word for alarm or siren and the alerts of incoming rockets heard around the country during the 11-day war with Hamas.
Netanyahu appears frustrated and angry as he accused Bennett of rejecting an offer he made and instead running to form a left-wing government that would endanger the safety of the State of Israel.
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.