New Hope party chief Gideon Sa’ar may join a government led by Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, if Lapid and Yamina chief Naftali Bennett rotate the premiership between them, according to a television report Monday.
Sources close to Sa’ar told Kan news that if Lapid is able to put together a ruling coalition but Bennett does not join, “it’s just a left-wing government.”
The centrist Yesh Atid, with 17 seats, is the largest party in the “change bloc” of factions opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Fellow anti-Netanyahu party New Hope has six seats while Yamina, which has not committed to any bloc, has seven.
Despite the ambitious demand, Bennett told his fellow party members and close activists that he stands by his commitment to ensure Israel doesn’t head to a fifth round of elections in two years, according to Channel 12 news.
The network also claimed associates of Netanyahu have proposed he forgo efforts to form a new government and instead seek the presidency, after again failing to secure a majority in general elections. Netanyahu was said to be ruling out such a path, preferring to continue his efforts to assemble a coalition and to remain Likud party chairman.
According to the TV report, which did not cite a source, Netanyahu is concerned about the potential formation of a government without him that would include the Likud-allied Haredi parties and the far-right Religious Zionists, along with Yamina, New Hope, Blue and White and possibly Lapid’s Yesh Atid.
However, even if Yesh Atid were to join such a coalition, it would still be one seat shy of a majority, based on the unofficial final election results.
The network said United Torah Judaism head Moshe Gafni was somewhat open to the possibility, but Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who heads the fellow ultra-Orthodox Shas party, has vowed to only join a government led by Netanyahu.
Netanyahu contacted Gafni on Sunday and asked for his full backing, but Gafni replied that he needed “time to think,” Kan reported.
MK Yaakov Litzman, another leader in UTJ, said Monday that the Haredi party backs Netanyahu as prime minister, noting its pre-election pledges.
Rivlin’s office said Monday that he will hold two days of consultations with party leaders starting April 5, the same day the evidentiary stage in Netanyahu’s corruption trial begins.
“At the end of the round of consultations, and if required, the president will hold further conversations with the relevant candidates to form a government according to the recommendations of the parties,” a statement from the President’s Residence said.
It added that Rivlin will task a candidate with forming a government on April 7, based on whom he assesses has the best chance of doing so.