Right-wing lawmaker meets Islamist party leader amid unity government negotiations

Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked met with Ra’am’s Mansour Abbas as Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid continue negotiations to form an anti-Netanyahu government.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

A constellation of Israeli political parties seeking to unseat longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened Monday to hash out power-sharing agreements two days before a deadline.

Among the consultations on Monday, Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked met with Mansour Abbas, leader of the Islamist Ra’am party, whose support Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid will need to cobble together a government that would unseat Netanyahu.

Abbas has so far refused to officially commit to backing a government led by Yemina head Naftali Bennett.

Neither Yemina nor Ra’am issued a statement following Shaked’s meeting with Abbas, however, Haaretz reported that the latter demanded one of his party’s lawmakers take up the deputy interior minister position.

Shaked is reportedly in line for the interior ministry post and opposes Abbas’ demand.

Footage of Abbas leaving the meeting showed the Islamist politician being confronted by the father of terror victim Shir Hajaj. During the exchange, Herzl Hajaj accused Abbas of rejecting terrorism in Hebrew statements but saying the opposite in Arabic communications. Abbas denied the accusations.

Also on Monday, Yair Lapid said at a meeting of his Yesh Atid party that “a great many obstacles” stood before a prospective government. But he said the various members of the anti-Netanyahu coalition are trying “to see if we can find in the coming days wise compromises for the sake of the big aim.”

Lapid was tasked by the country’s figurehead president with forming a government earlier this month after Netanyahu failed to do so in the aftermath of the March 23 elections, the fourth in two years.

On Sunday, Bennett, head of the nationalist Yemina party, said he would work with Lapid to form a broad unity government and “save the country from a tailspin and return Israel to its course.” Lapid has already secured the support of two smaller liberal parties and a secular nationalist faction.

Bennett and Lapid have until Wednesday to hammer out a deal in which the pair would split the premiership — with Bennett serving the first two years and Lapid the following two.

No political party has ever won an outright majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, the Knesset, forcing smaller factions to band together to form a coalition with more than 61 seats.

If Lapid and his allies — which range from hard-line nationalists to liberal Zionists and Abbas’ small Islamist party — can overcome their differences and seal a deal, it would spell the end of Netanyahu’s rule, for the time being.

Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, having held office since 2009, as well as a brief stint in the late 1990s.

After Bennett announced his intention to join forces with Lapid, Netanyahu lashed out in a nationally televised speech, saying that such a government “is a danger to the security of Israel, and is also a danger to the future of the state.”

Lapid responded to Netanyahu’s remarks on Monday, saying they were “reckless and dangerous, that of a man who has lost the brakes.”

On Sunday, the Knesset Guard approved assigning a personal bodyguard to Shaked amid increasing threats of physical violence. Protesters outside Shaked’s home held signs that read “Leftist traitors.” Bennett received a personal security detachment earlier this month.

Gideon Saar, a former member of Netanyahu’s Likud party who split away ahead of the March elections, said his New Hope was “doing everything in our power” to reach a compromise and form a government, but that such an outcome remained uncertain.