Lapid, Liberman discuss PM replacement; Bennett talks to parties on the right and left

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman met on Friday for the first time since Tuesday’s election to discuss ways to work together to potentially form a government to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The two agreed to keep in touch and meet again soon, a spokesman for Yesh Atid said.

Meanwhile, Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett said in a statement on Friday that he had spoken to the heads of all non-Arab parties from the right and left for the past two days, wished them a happy Passover and “ stressed that responsible, principled action to get Israel out of the free chaos and get it functioning properly again as soon as possible. ”

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Bennett, who has not pledged to support the pro or anti-Netanyahu blocs, is seen as a linchpin of any future coalition in the wake of the deadlocked elections.

Liberman, whose party won seven seats, hinted ahead of the election that he intends to recommend that Lapid, whose party won 17 seats, be tasked with forming the next government. The leaders of Labor – seven seats – and Meretz – six seats – have also indicated that they will support Yesh Atid’s chairman and make 37 recommendations to him.

After the formal election results are handed to President Reuven Rivlin next week, he will consult with senior representatives from each Knesset party, hear who they recommend as prime minister, and then impeach the candidate he believes is most likely to become a Knesset. majority. with the task of forming a new government.

Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz, whose party won eight seats, has said he will recommend, and not rule out Lapid, anyone who has the best chance of forming a government.

Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope won just six seats after a campaign pledging to become the next prime minister. The right-wing lawmaker promised not to be under Lapid during the campaign. However, the two have spoken since the election and agreed to work together to replace Netanyahu.

New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar and party members at New Hope’s Tel Aviv headquarters on election night March 23, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg / Flash90)

Lapid could receive six more recommendations from the Joint List, whose chairman Ayman Odeh has not ruled out supporting Yesh Atid’s leader.

However, Ahmad Tibi, number 2 of Odeh, told Kan News on Friday that the Joint List would make significant demands from the parties in the anti-Netanyahu bloc asking for their support, both in terms of recommendations to the president and how to replace them. the chairman of the Knesset in order to get rid of Netanyahu’s Likud from control of parliament.

“Not everything comes automatically – we have demands,” said Tibi.

Joint List party member Ahmad Tibi speaks at a press conference presenting Joint List Hebrew election campaign in Tel Aviv, 23 February 2021 (Miriam Alster / Flash90)

If Lapid gets the backing of Blue and White, New Hope and the Joint List, he will have 57 recommendations – five more than Netanyahu if the Prime Minister gets the backing of Shas (nine seats), United Torah Judaism (seven seats), and Religious Zionism (six seats).

Yamina leads Naftali Bennett at a party event on March 23, 2021. (Avi Dishi / Flash90)

Yamina’s Bennett, whose party won seven seats; and Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas, whose party won four seats, is less likely to recommend Netanyahu or Lapid, but are seen as coalition king-makers with options to work with both blocs.

Given that Netanyahu’s bloc, when Yamina is incorporated, shuns only two seats for a majority, Likud has sought to persuade lawmakers on the other side to leave their current faction to join a right-wing religious coalition.

The most likely candidates appear to be in New Hope, which is ideologically closest to Likud and mainly made up of former members of the party.

Likud MK Sharren Haskel announces her resignation from the Knesset and Likud party on December 23, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

New Hope’s Sharren Haskel tweeted Friday that Likud representatives had offered her “half a kingdom” to defect.

“No chance. I am loyal to the values ​​on which New Hope was founded, and not to the portfolio you offer me. Give it up,” she wrote.

On Thursday, the No. 2 lawmaker in New Hope, Yifat Shasha-Biton, said several of Netanyahu’s employees had also tried to convince her to leave her party and join the prime minister’s Likud faction.

“It is no secret that there is very strong pressure on us to join a government led by Likud, including for myself,” Shasha-Biton told Channel 12. “I have received official messages, as have other members of the United States. New Hope, but it’s not going to happen. ”

MK Yifat Shasha-Biton. (Miriam Alster / Flash90)

Yoaz Hendel, another New Hope lawmaker, hinted at a similar attempt to entice him into joining Likud.

“For anyone who contacts me – an SMS campaign during the Easter cleanup won’t make any difference,” Hendel wrote on Twitter, referring to a tradition leading up to the upcoming holiday. “Now, with the final election results, there is only the possibility of a change of government. Stop the calls and start cleaning up. “

Sa’ar is a harsh critic of Netanyahu who has repeatedly vowed not to join a coalition led by Netanyahu. New Hope had a disappointing election result after once standing for more than 20 seats.

Sa’ar tweeted Friday, “I call on Netanyahu to step aside. Release Israel from your grasp and allow us to move on. “

Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich on Thursday called on Sa’ar and Yamina’s Bennett to join Netanyahu’s bloc and “set aside personal affairs and enter a right-wing government.”

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