Netanyahu Era Ends as Ultra Right Wing Party Supports Centrist Yair Lapid to Take Power

With a key Israeli opposition leader declaring support for a coalition government led by the centrist Yesh Atid party, the Benjamin Netanyahu era in Israeli politics has all but ended.

Ultra-nationalist party Yamina was expected to support Netanyahu's Likud to form the next government along with other parties, but its leader Naftali Bennett has said he will support Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.

Israel's Longest Serving Prime Minister

Netanyahu is Israel's longest serving leader, and he had declared victory after the March elections, which was the fourth to be held in the country in less than two years as the previous three failed to break an electoral deadlock.


Lapid and Bennett have been in talks for some days, and the former has time until Wednesday to stitch together a coalition, even as Netanyahu, who is fighting a corruption scandal, said a government led by the centrists will weaken Israel.

Earlier, Bennett announced his decision in a televised address. "Mr Netanyahu is no longer trying to form a right-wing government because he knows full well that there isn't one. He is seeking to take the whole national camp, and the whole country, with him on his personal last stand ... I will do everything to form a national unity government with my friend Yair Lapid," he said.

Burying Disagreements

Bennett said he is burying his disagreements with Lapid to form a unity government. "Yair and I disagree on a number of issues of substance. But we are partners in our love for the country and willingness to work for the sake of the country," he said, according to the JPost.

Israel Knesset building
Israel Knesset building Wikimedia Commons / Beny Shlevich

The reversal of fortunes for Netanyahu came after his effort to form a government with the support of New Hope party and Yamina. The Israeli prime minister had made an offer to make New Hope Party leader Gideon Sa'ar the prime minister for the first 15 months in the coalition government.

Netanyahu's Coalition Plans Break Down

Under plan, the remainder of the term would be shared by Netanyahu himself and Bennett. However, negotiations broke down after Sa'ar turned down the offer. The JPost reported that Netanyahu had given the offer in writing to them, besides the leaders of Shas, United Torah Judaism and the Religious Zionist Party.

"In an effort to end personal considerations and take unprecedented, far-reaching steps to guarantee the security and the character of the State of Israel and prevent the formation of a left-wing government that would endanger the state, we the undersigned party heads are making this offer," the letter said.

After the March elections, the right wing Likud party said Netanyahu should be able to form a government soon. Netanyahu said he won "a giant victory." He also had reached out to Bennett, asking him to join the government. Netanyahu exhorted his coalition partners to come together to form a stable right-wing government.