Yamina nominates party head Bennett to be next PM, though no one else does

Right-wing leader opts not to ally himself with either Netanyahu or Lapid at this stage, appearing to deepen parliamentary deadlock

Yamina party leader MK Naftali Bennett attends a Channel 12 news conference in Jerusalem on March 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yamina party leader MK Naftali Bennett attends a Channel 12 news conference in Jerusalem on March 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The right-wing Yamina party nominated leader Naftali Bennett, a former right-wing ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the next prime minister Monday, deepening Israel’s political deadlock.

Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked urged President Reuven Rivlin to consider the option despite the party only having seven seats, predicting that a “stable” government could be formed.

Yamina had been in a position to serve as a kingmaker between the two major blocs of supporters and opponents of Netanyahu. But instead, it declined to take sides, at least for now.

The party has just seven seats in parliament, making it a long shot to be able to form a governing coalition. But Bennett is hoping he can become a consensus candidate who can bridge the deep divides between the rival factions.

Members of the Yamina party meet with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on April 5, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yamina MK Matan Kahana said a fifth round of elections would be a “tragedy” and must be averted at any cost.

As he met with parties, Rivlin said that “at the moment, I can’t see a way to form a coalition.” And in stark comments, the president added that “after four election campaigns, democracy has exhausted itself.”

Media repots Sunday indicated Bennett and  Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid could be close to an agreement on forming a power-sharing government.

Channel 13 said Lapid had agreed to allow Bennett to serve as prime minister first in such an agreement.

No sources were given for the report.

According to a separate report on Channel 12, citing allies of the Yamina chief, Bennett would prefer a full right-wing government led by Netanyahu but this does not currently seem possible; his second choice would be a right-wing government led by Netanyahu with the outside support of the Islamist Arab Ra’am party, but this has been ruled out by Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich; and his third choice would be a partnership with Lapid and the center-left in which Bennett would serve as prime minister.

But the report says Bennett still prefers this third-best option to a fifth election.

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