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Bennett reportedly turned down offer from Lapid to serve as interim foreign minister

Former PM, who is not running in upcoming national election and has been noticeably absent from cabinet meetings since coalition’s demise, said to prefer to remain below the radar

Incoming Prime Minister Yair Lapid (left) is briefed by his predecessor Naftali Bennett at the Prime Minister's Office, June 30, 2022. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Incoming Prime Minister Yair Lapid (left) is briefed by his predecessor Naftali Bennett at the Prime Minister's Office, June 30, 2022. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett reportedly declined an offer from his successor to hold the position of interim foreign minister during the ongoing election period.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, Prime Minister Yair Lapid suggested that Bennett — who has held the role of alternate prime minister since the coalition’s demise as part of the rotation deal made when the government was formed — become foreign minister until after the November 1 election.

Lapid, who held the position of foreign minister under Bennett, has continued to hold onto the portfolio while serving as prime minister.

The report did not clarify when the offer was made.

Bennett — who announced last month that he was taking a break from political life and would not run in the upcoming national election — reportedly declined the offer, explaining that he preferred to remain under the radar during the current election period.

Bennett is officially the religious services minister, although Deputy Minister Matan Kahana — who held the post during most of the outgoing government — is more active in the ministry. Kahana was formerly the religious affairs minister but resigned the position as part of the efforts by Yamina to patch up its losses from defections, later returning as deputy minister.

Despite holding the position of alternate prime minister, Bennett has been notably absent since Lapid was sworn in to office on July 1. He has not taken part in most of the weekly cabinet meetings, and while he greeted US President Joe Biden on the tarmac earlier this month, he did not take part in any sit-down meetings with the visiting American leader.

From left, President Isaac Herzog, US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at Ben Gurion Airport, July 13, 2022 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

In his speech last month announcing a break from national politics, Bennett pledged to “remain a loyal soldier of this country, which I have served as a combat soldier, an officer, a minister and as your prime minister. Serving this country is my destiny.”

Bennett handed control of his Yamina party to his longtime No. 2, Ayelet Shaked, although most current polls — though unreliable — show that it falling far beneath the electoral threshold.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked during a plenum session at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, February 28, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last year, Bennett became Israel’s 13th prime minister as part of a deal forged with Lapid to form an unlikely and diverse governing coalition ousting Benjamin Netanyahu.

Under the terms of the deal, Bennett — whose party at the time held just seven seats in the Knesset — was slated to serve as prime minister for two years before handing over the office to Lapid.

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