Netanyahu, Bennett in last-ditch effort to bring right-wing faction into fold

“I want the entire rightist bloc in the coalition. Why does Yemina still insist on staying in opposition?” Netanyahu tweeted Tuesday evening.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yemina party leader Naftali Bennett will meet in a last-ditch effort to bring the defense minister’s coalition of six right-wing Knesset members into the new national unity government, the Knesset Television channel reported Wednesday.

Defense Minister Bennett had been determined about moving to the opposition rather that accepting demotions in the unity government’s new cabinet, which would see his faction’s role diminished.

In the new government, the Defense Ministry will be going to the Blue and White Party, forcing Bennett out of the role he has held since November 2019.

“I want the entire rightist bloc in the coalition. Why does Yemina still insist on staying in opposition?” Netanyahu tweeted Tuesday evening.

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni told the Knesset Television channel that he is was brokering contacts between the two, saying “it is forbidden that Yemina should not be in the coalition.”

Netanyahu is throwing religious Zionism under the bus,” an unnamed senior Yemina party member told Israel Hayom earlier this week. “He is leading the way to the end of the right-wing and the end of the historic covenant with religious Zionism.”

The unity government agreement will see Netanyahu serve as prime minister for 18 months and then step aside for Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to take the helm. The deal between the two parties dealt most of the top cabinet positions to party loyalists, leaving little for the six members of Bennett’s Yemina coalition, which found itself on the sidelines.

Formed before the March 2 election, Yemina itself is a coalition of Bennett’s New Right, the Jewish Home party of Education Minister Rafi Peretz and the National Union led by Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

The split between Yemina and Likud means none of them are currently slated to be in the proposed cabinet of 36 ministers, although several portfolios have yet to be assigned, leaving Netanyahu and Bennett some negotiating room.

People close to Peretz said the current education minister was not ruling out going into the government alone, Kan Radio reported. However, that would only happen if Peretz receives a ministerial position with significant powers for his religious Zionist camp.

Peretz apparently felt slighted, having not been consulted about key coalition negotiations last week by his partners in Yemina. He said he discovered that if the deal had gone through, he would be the last to get a ministry.