Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering reappointing New Right’s Naftali Bennett to the cabinet amid warming ties between the two, Channel 12 news reported Friday.
Netanyahu fired Bennett, the former education minister, and his ally Ayelet Shaked, the former justice minister, from the cabinet following the April election. He did this ostensibly due to their failure to enter the Knesset at the polls — though his move to do so before a new government had been formed was widely seen as a sign of soured ties.
Bennett later entered the Knesset again after running on the Yamina slate, an alliance of right-wing parties, in the September elections. However, Yamina has since subsequently split into its original factions.
However, Channel 12 reported that Netanyahu and Bennett were now on considerably better terms. The currently free portfolios are Diaspora Affairs, Welfare and Defense — the latter currently being handled by Netanyahu.
The report said such a move would indicate that Netanyahu was looking toward a third election and not reaching a compromise for a unity government with Blue and White’s Benny Gantz.
Israel Hayom, a newspaper seen as very close to Netanyahu, reported last month that the two had grown closer since September’s election, in light of the ongoing political crisis and the right’s inability to form a government following the last two elections.
The paper said the two were in frequent contact to discuss strategy and possible political scenarios.
Bennett and Shaked, as New Right, are part of a bloc of 55 MKs that have vowed to only back Netanyahu for the role of prime minister following the September vote. But lacking a Knesset majority due to Yisrael Beytenu’s refusal to sit with religious parties, Netanyahu failed in his bid to form a government after the September election.
President Reuven Rivlin last week tasked Gantz with attempting to form a coalition, but his chances of doing so are even slimmer.
Both Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu have called for a unity government with Likud, but without the other ultra-Orthodox and hard-right parties. Likud has refused to negotiate outside the bloc of 55.
Meanwhile, negotiations between Likud and Gantz’s party have also snagged over Blue and White’s insistence it cannot support a Netanyahu premiership so long as he is suspected in three criminal cases — and may well be charged in them soon.