Scrambling to build coalition government, Lapid issues call for national unity

The Yesh Atid party leader issued the appeal in his first speech since he was tapped by Israel’s president on Wednesday to form a new government.

By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff

Israel’s opposition leader on Thursday called for a unity government and vowed to find common ground among the ideologically diverse parties seeking to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yair Lapid, head of the center-left Yesh Atid party, issued the appeal in his first speech since he was tapped by Israel’s president on Wednesday to form a new government.

“I believe in the good intentions of my future partners,” Lapid said. “They are different people with different views, but the fact that someone doesn’t agree with us doesn’t make them an enemy.”

President Reuven Rivlin gave Lapid four weeks to try to form a new coalition government after Netanyahu failed to meet a midnight deadline the previous day.

Lapid will have to bring seven parties with vastly different ideologies into a single coalition. He has expressed optimism he can pull off the task and make history by ending Netanyahu’s record-setting 12-year term in office.

The right-wing Yemina party has agreed to join Lapid, despite earlier promises never to do so. Its leader, Naftali Bennett, on Wednesday called for an emergency government of national unity, asking all right-wing parties to join Lapid’s coalition in order to avoid a fifth Israeli national election in just over two years.

Lapid has vowed to break the stalemate and heal the bitter divisions in Israeli society. He also wants to address deeper economic and social problems.

“From my first day in politics, that’s been my wish, it’s my mission: To find the shared good. To take Israeli society from disagreement to agreement,” Lapid said.

Lapid, 57, entered parliament in 2013 after a successful career as a newspaper columnist, TV anchor and author.