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Bennett: If Netanyahu can’t build a coalition, I’ll work to form a unity government

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett gives a statement to the press on April 21, 2021. (Screen capture/Channel 13)
Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett gives a statement to the press on April 21, 2021. (Screen capture/Channel 13)

In a statement to the press, Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett tears into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “holding the country hostage” and being prepared to keep Israel in a perpetual cycle of elections.

And he says that if Netanyahu cannot form a coalition in the final two weeks of the mandate to do so, he’ll work to build a “national unity government.” Bennett had pledged not to serve in a government under Yesh Atid opposition leader Yair Lapid, but he is now declaring potential readiness to at least partner with Lapid in a coalition.

“The people of Israel want and need a stable government,” Bennett says.

“There are people who need to earn a living and return from furlough, children who need to return a school; citizens are sick of the infighting… They just want a government that works for them.

“I told Netanyahu right away [when he received the mandate to form a government two weeks ago] that he has Yamina’s votes to create a right-wing government,” Bennett says.

However, Netanyahu has wasted that time and has not been willing to offer a reasonable compromise to allow for the right-wing New Hope party to join the government and allow for a right-wing coalition, Bennett says.

“He’s pushing for only one thing, more elections, this time packaged as direct elections [for prime minister]. He’s saying ‘if I don’t have a government, nobody will have a government; we’ll have elections — 5th and 6th and 7th’.”

“This cannot go on. Israel cannot be held hostage by politicians,” he says. “More elections means more wasted billions… more long months of divisive discourse… While the country wants a government, Netanyahu prefers another election. I won’t allow this to happen.”

He says Netanyahu’s and Likud’s attacks on him are having no effect. And he sets out his preferences as follows:

His first priority is for a right-wing government to be formed, and he insists, “Netanyahu, it is possible.”

But if Likud fails, he says, then his second preference is “a national unity government,” presumably with Yesh Atid’s Lapid.

However, he clarifies that he will only join such a government if it is “good and stable” and allows him “to safeguard my values and worldview.”

He admits to not knowing whether that will be possible, but vows to do everything he can to prevent another election.

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