Netanyahu: Bennett can be prime minister first in rotational leadership

Bennett responded to Netanyahu’s offer, saying that the proposal was “unclear.”

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

One day before his mandate to form a government expires, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a Facebook Live broadcast that he’s willing to let Yemina chair Naftali Bennett take the reins first in a rotation agreement.

“I told Naftali Bennett I am willing to accept his demand for a rotation deal in which he will serve first as prime minister for one year,” said Netanyahu on Monday afternoon. “Yemina party members will enter the government and Knesset with important roles.

“I implore [Bennett] to sign a deal today for the formation of a right-wing government, and to commit that he won’t join any other government.

“In a post 10 days ago, Bennett wrote that a right-wing government could be formed if I move aside for the first year. So I moved aside. Now it’s your turn.”

The announcement came after Hebrew language reports on Monday morning indicated that Bennett and his party’s number two, former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, had given up on the idea of forming a government with the change bloc parties and were ready to join Netanyahu.

Other commentators suggested that the pair were bluffing in order to receive concessions from Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid.

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But even if Bennett would accept Netanyahu’s offer, the premier is still facing a major hurdle in forming a government.

Even with Yemina joining the coalition, Netanyahu would still be short of a 61-seat Knesset majority and would need the support of the Islamist Ra’am party, an idea that’s been staunchly rejected by the Religious Zionism party.

“Mr. Prime Minister, your attempts to pressure me to agree to the formation of a ‘right-wing’ government based on supporters of terrorism will not succeed,” Betzalel Smotrich, head of the party, wrote on Twitter shortly after the announcement.

But Rabbi Tzvi Thau of the party’s Noam faction has contradicted Smotrich’s messaging on the matter, writing in an open letter that securing a right-wing government should be first priority.

Thau warned that a government formed by the anti-Netanyahu change bloc would be able to “implement its dangerous ideas.” He said the “extreme left” coalition would work to promote Sabbath desecration and postmodernist ideas, harm the IDF, and abolish the rabbinate.

“Forming a [right-wing] government that will take care of Israel… is a sanctification of God’s name,” he wrote. “I call on [the politicians] to do everything they can to give the power to our prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to form the government.”

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Bennett responded to Netanyahu’s offer, saying that the proposal was “unclear.”

“I didn’t ask for the premiership, but for a government — and this, unfortunately, he doesn’t have, because [Religious Zionism head] Smotrich burned the bridges leading to a right-wing government,” said Bennett.