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Coalition Building

Is the kingmaker about to become king?

Speculation mounting that Naftali Bennett set to become Israel’s next prime minister, form government with Yair Lapid – announcement could come Sunday

Naftali Bennett speaks with Yair Lapid in the assembly session in the plenum hall of the Israeli parliament. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90

JERUSALEM—As the Sabbath comes to a close, buzz is growing here that a political earthquake could happen by this time tomorrow night.

Israel’s Channel 12 is reporting that Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett has struck an agreement with Yair Lapid, the head of the Yesh Atid party and opposition leader in the Knesset and will make an announcement as early as Saturday evening after sundown.

The deal would make Bennett Israel’s next prime minister and would serve for two years and three months.

During that time, Yair Lapid would serve as foreign minister.

Then, Lapid would rotate to become prime minister for the next two years and three months, and Bennett would serve as foreign minister.

There is widespread speculation that if this deal happens, that Ra’am – the Arab party led by Mansour Abbas with four seats – would also join this new coalition, providing a 61-seat majority.

This would shake the Israeli political system to its core.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s modern history, would be required to step down.

His Likud party – the largest faction in the Knesset with 30 seats – would move into the opposition.

It would mark the first time that an Arab party has ever actively worked to form an Israeli government.

That said, ALL ISRAEL NEWS has not independently confirmed that the deal is done.

And even if it was close to being done on Friday, there are numerous ways it could have fallen apart over the past 24 hours.

However, if the story is true, it would mean that Bennett – the man widely described by Israeli political reporters and columns as the “kingmaker” – would actually become “king,” despite the fact that he and his party only have seven seats.

Other Israeli media outlets – including The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Haaretz, Arutz Sheva, and others – immediately picked up the Channel 12 story.

But so far we have not seen independent verification from any of them.

Lapid and Bennett met on Friday, the first time since the Gaza war started.

Over the past week, Lapid announced one coalition deal after another with nearly all the other political parties he would need to finalize the coalition.

So, is it true? Will Israel avoid a fifth round of elections? Will the kingmaker become king?

Stay tuned…..

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

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