Shaked: Smotrich is the one blocking a right-wing coalition

Right-wing parties exchange insults as the clock ticks down with one week left in the mandate of center-left opposition leader Yair Lapid to form a government.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Senior figures from two of Israel’s small right-wing parties on Wednesday blamed each other for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to form a government, with one side accusing the other of wanting to join a left-wing government instead.

Ayelet Shaked of the right-wing Yemina Party accused Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich of blocking a right-wing government, led by Netanyahu, because of his opposition to support from the four-member United Arab List (Ra’am) party. Smotrich has repeatedly said he would never serve in a government with Ra’am, whose party platform is opposed to Israel as a Jewish state.

Shaked said Smotrich’s opposition would lead to an overthrow of the Right in Israel.

“Smotrich is burning the barns in a tireless political campaign. He is leading Israel to a fifth election and chaos,” Shaked said at a press conference. “Smotrich already understands that he will be to blame for the failure to form a right-wing government, so he started firing in all directions.”

Yossi Elituv, editor of the religious weekly Mishpacha (Family) magazine, tweeted that “the moment of truth for [Yemina leader Naftali] Bennett and Shaked has arrived,” saying the two had to make a decision.

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“It’s either a government with [center-left Yesh Atid party leader Yair] Lapid, or a fifth election,” Elituv said. “Bibi [Netanyahu] expects the duo [Bennett and Shaked] to jump into the stormy water with him and run for new elections. And what will they do? The head says they will link up with Lapid. The heart says Shaked will run away at the last minute.”

Smotrich rejected Elituv’s assessment, calling it a “distorted and incorrect presentation of reality.”

“This is the story that Bennett and Shaked tell to justify their moves,” Smotrich tweeted. “The truth is that the choice is different: either a right-wing government that is very likely, [but] with a tiny risk of elections, or a left-wing government with supporters of terrorism whose promotion sterilizes in advance the chance of forming a right-wing government (as they have been doing for a month).”

Israel’s fourth elections in two years back in March led to a stalemate, with neither the Right nor Left able to get a minimum 61-seat majority in the Knesset, Israel’s 120-seat parliament.

Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 seats, the most of any party, but a coalition of right-wing and religious parties, including Yemina with 7 seats and Religious Zionism with 6, gives him only 59 seats, two shy of the majority needed. Netanyahu and Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas have reportedly reached an agreement whereby Abbas would vote to support a Netanyahu-led right-wing coalition in return for legislation and a budget that would favor Israel’s Arab sector.

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Smotrich says he will never join a government under such conditions, and both Bennett and Gideon Saar of the right-wing New Hope party (6 seats) are contemplating joining a coalition to oust Netanyahu. However, that coalition, according to which Bennett could serve first as prime minister in a rotation with Lapid, comes to only 58 seats and would also need the support of either Ra’am or the Joint Arab List (6 seats).

After the election, Netanyahu was given a month to try and form a government, but failed. The task was then given to Lapid, who has one week left before his time expires.

At that point, the Knesset could nominate yet another candidate to try and form a government within a final three-week period. There would have to be major concessions from right, left and Arab parties in order to avoid an unprecedented fifth election this fall.