Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will let Naftali Bennett be prime minister first in a rotation deal and will give cushy cabinet positions to other Yamina party members if they will join his coalition, according to Hebrew media reports.
He announced as much on social media this afternoon in Hebrew.
נפתלי בנט - הצטרף עוד היום לממשלת ימין. אחרים יבואו אחריך, אבל הם מחכים לך. pic.twitter.com/4GBDF3p7Dr— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 3, 2021
Bennett's party denied the report and said, "Right now, you don't even have a government at all. You are trying to blame us," Walla reported.
"I didn't ask Netanyahu for the job," he said.
"We are nearing the end of Netanyahu's term, and naturally there are a lot of spins in the system. My first priority was and remains forming a right-wing government," Bennett said. "I know it disappoints a lot of people on the left, but I am a right-wing man and I do not intend to change. There are no disputes between me and Netanyahu over positions or rotations, everything was agreed upon in the first hour of the negotiations."
Netanyahu’s deadline to form a majority coalition is midnight on Tuesday. At that point, President Reuven Rivlin may give the mandate to another party leader or back to the Knesset.
Despite Bennett’s denials, Netanyahu doubled down on his claim.
“Bennett wrote 10 days ago that a right-wing government could be formed if I step aside for the first year,” Netanyahu said. “I moved. Now it’s your turn.”
Netanyahu said it would be Bennett’s fault if the country fails to form a right-wing government. But Bennett noted that the prime minister never got Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich to agree to including the Arab party Ra’am, with 4 seats, in the coalition.
“I didn’t ask him to head the government but for there to be a government, and he doesn’t have one because of Smotrich,” Bennett said. “Netanyahu formed a satellite party and lost control over it.”
Smotrich has vowed he would not sit in a government with "supporters of terrorism," referring to Mansour Abbas and his Ra’am party.
By the evening news, however, the story had died down and no longer led the headlines, leaving us to wonder whether this was a last-ditch effort by Netanyahu to either lure Bennett into a government with him – or to cast doubt on whether the anti-Netanyahu bloc can trust Bennett.
If Netanyahu fails to get 61 seats by tomorrow night’s deadline then, most likely, Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid will get the nod. If he does, he will need Bennett’s 7 seats.
Lapid already said Bennett could trust his promise to go first in a prime minister rotation, but should not trust Netanyahu.
“What I offered will be kept, and what Netanyahu offered will never happen,” Lapid said.
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.