Netanyahu called on right-wing holdouts to “come home.”
By David Isaac, World Israel News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has remained behind the scenes since it became evident the election was not a Likud victory but a stalemate, finally broke his silence on Wednesday evening, calling on two right-wing parties to “come home” and join his coalition.
Of the two parties, New Hope and Yemina, only the latter seems likely to join a Netanyahu-led coalition. New Hope’s leader Gideon Saar has pledged not to serve under Netanyahu.
Saar, like so many of Netanyahu’s opponents, once started as a confidante of the prime minister.
Netanyahu’s Likud won 30 seats in the March 23 election but he lacks the 61 Knesset seats necessary to cobble together a government.
If Yemina and New Hope were to join Netanyahu he would have a comfortable 65 seats.
However, Netanyahu’s appeal doesn’t appear to have stirred Saar. He tweeted after the speech: “I will not join or support the Netanyahu-led government. The continued tenure of Netanyahu, who prefers his personal good to the good of the state, harms Israel.”
Indeed, Israeli pundits are treating Netanyahu’s speech as political theater meant to show the Israeli public that he hasn’t left a stone unturned in his attempt to form a government should a fifth election become necessary.
Netanyahu may still have a path to the premiership if he can convince his coalition (Yemina included) to accept support from the Arab party Ra’am, which sources say is leaning toward Netanyahu.
Arab parties have traditionally refused to support Israeli governments. Ra’am has taken a new approach, which is to work with the Israeli government to obtain benefits for its Arab constituency.
However, right-wing parties like Religious Zionism, part of Netanyahu’s coalition with six seats, says it will refuse to sit with Ra’am, which is an anti-Zionist and Islamist party.
Ironically, given the problems Netanyahu is having forming a coalition, Israelis voted overwhelmingly for a right-wing Knesset.
Netanyahu opened his remarks on Wednesday saying, “The people have made their say clearly, the public has given the right-wing parties a clear majority.”
However, Netanyahu has antagonized a number of former allies to the point that two have promised never to form a government with him (they hold 13 seats total) and another, Naftali Bennett of Yemina (7 seats), remains on the fence.
Bennett was noncommittal after Netanyahu’s speech, only saying he’ll do what’s best for the Israeli public.
Next week, President Reuven Rivlin will decide which leader should be given the first chance to form a government.