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Bennett said mulling timeout from politics, not running in next election

Israel TV says outgoing PM floated idea of a break at Yamina meeting; previously, his aides reportedly offered high-level posts to rebel Orbach in failed bid to make him quit as MK

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset on June 22, 2022 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset on June 22, 2022 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has floated the idea of taking a break from political life and not running in the next elections, according to Israeli television reports Wednesday.

The Kan public broadcaster reported that Bennett raised the idea at a meeting with fellow members of his Yamina party, but said he has not made a final decision.

The prime minister has not publicly addressed the matter.

Yamina MKs reportedly urged Bennett to make a decision quickly, tying their fate to his. According to the Kan report, they are also likely to step away if Bennett does.

The Knesset approved a preliminary reading of a bill on Wednesday to dissolve itself. Once it passes the necessary legislative hurdles, Israel will head to its fifth election since 2019 and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will become caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed. Bennett would then replace Lapid as alternate prime minister.

Polls aired on TV networks Tuesday showed that Bennett’s Yamina would only win four to five seats, compared to the seven the party picked up in the 2021 elections, which could play a role in encouraging the outgoing premier to hand over the reins of his party.

Yamina MK Nir Orbach, leading a Knesset House Committee meeting, 21, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Meanwhile, Channel 13 reported Wednesday that before Bennett decided the prospect of salvaging the coalition was over, his proxies offered to appoint Yamina rebel Nir Orbach to a powerful position of his choosing in exchange for resigning from the Knesset.

Orbach was reportedly offered the chair of Mifal HaPais, Israel’s national lottery, or to serve as director-general of Keren Hayesod, the country’s official fundraising body.

Orbach apparently dismissed the proposition, citing his personal values.

The Yamina lawmaker recently dropped his support for the government, citing the refusal of coalition MKs who refused to back crucial legislation applying Israeli law to Israeli citizens living in the West Bank; the decision left the government with a parliamentary minority.

Bennett was first elected to the Knesset after leading the Jewish Home party to win 12 seats in the 2013 elections. He went on to serve as a minister in Netanyahu-led governments.

He failed to pass the electoral threshold with his New Right party in the April 2019 elections but was given a second chance when another round of elections was held in September that year, regaining a Knesset seat as part of the Yamina faction.

Following elections in 2021, Bennett broke from his old ally Netanyahu and formed a historic, diverse unity government, with himself as premier. The coalition collapsed under the weight of defections in recent months, many from his own party, due to ideological divisions with coalition partners.

Fresh elections will likely take place in late October or early November, after the Jewish High Holidays.

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