Potential kingmaker Bennett coy on next steps

Instead of expressing his intention to commit to one side or the other, he pledged to “do only what’s good for the State of Israel.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

As the results of Tuesday’s election continue to roll in, it appears that the chair of the right-wing Yamina party, Naftali Bennett, may play the role of kingmaker.

His party is expected to garner 7 to 8 mandates — enough to make or break a right-wing coalition for Netanyahu or create an alternative government composed of anti-Netanyahu parties.

During a speech at an election night party in Petach Tikvah, Bennett decided to play it cool and did not state if he is planning to join the pro-Netanyahu bloc or those trying to end Netanyahu’s time in power.

Instead of expressing his intention to commit to one side or the other, he pledged to “do only what’s good for the State of Israel.”

“It will take several days until we know exactly the results, and we will wait patiently to see what the picture of the government is,” he said.

Bennett said that his goal was to repair the rifts in Israeli society, calling for a “time for healing.”

He promised to “move [Israel] from baseless hatred to free love. From a storm and chaos to stability and security. From self-concerned leadership to professional leadership that cares.”

Acknowledging the hostility and mutual distrust among different sectors of Israeli society, he added, “I can guarantee one thing, every government that is formed will take care of all the citizens of the country — secular, religious, traditional ultra-Orthodox, right and left, Jews and Arabs, all citizens of Israel.”

Late Tuesday evening, Yamina spokesman Moshe Basus told Hebrew language media that the party would have a “serious discussion” about its next steps.

“We will hope for the best and do the best by what the public gave us,” said Masus.

But as votes continued to be tallied on Wednesday morning, it appears that Netanyahu may not have a right-wing bloc, even with the help of Bennett.

Rather, Netanyahu would need to embrace Islamist party Ra’am, led by former Joint List MK Mansour Abbas.

Such a move would likely lead to the Religious Zionism party refusing to join a coalition with Likud.

It is also questionable whether Bennett would join. On Sunday evening, in an interview with Channel 20, Bennett produced and signed a declaration stating, “I won’t allow Yair Lapid to be prime minister, including in a rotation,” and “I will not establish a government based on the support of Mansour Abbas from the Islamic Movement.”

Bennett called on Netanyahu to sign the declaration as well, to which the prime minister did not respond. Relations between the Likud and Ra’am parties warmed up during the months ahead of the election as Netanyahu courted the Arab vote.