Opposition parties in Israel confirmed Wednesday they had come to an agreement to form a ruling coalition and replace Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE after 12 years in power.
The power-sharing agreement, which was reported to and confirmed by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, is made up of a slew of parties from across the political spectrum ranging from the right-wing to Arab parties, raising speculation over how long the coalition can stick together. But the new governing alliance could end two years of political turmoil that have included four elections.
Congratulations to you @yairlapid and to the heads of the parties on your agreement to form a government. We expect the Knesset will convene as soon as possible to ratify the government, as required.— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) June 2, 2021
The Israeli parliament will now hold a confidence vote in the coming days to confirm the coalition’s status as the ruling government.
The deal was hammered out by Yair Lapid, the leader of the center-left Yesh Atid Party, who cobbled together the ideologically diverse group. He clinched a coalition that could control a narrow majority of 61 seats in the 120-seat Israeli parliament known as the Knesset after forming an agreement with Naftali Bennett, the right-wing leader of the Yamina Party.
The terms of the deal include Bennett serving the first two years of a four-year term as prime minister, and Lapid serving the remaining two years.
The coalition is made up of a hodgepodge of eight parties in total, ranging from Yamina to a small Arab party called Raam, marking the first time in Israeli history that an Arab group is part of a right-leaning coalition.
The groups, which came together under the banner of a “change coalition,” have been united in their efforts to oust Netanyahu. However, agreements on main issues mostly end there.
“This government will work for all the citizens of Israel, those that voted for it and those that didn’t. It will do everything to unite Israeli society,” Lapid said on Twitter just as the deal was being announced.
The coalition’s formation marks a stunning defeat for Netanyahu, who failed four times to form a coalition that would have kept him in power even after he once tried to secure the support of an Arab party, an attempt that was thwarted by a small ultranationalist party.
The prime minister has ruled Israel for 12 consecutive years in addition to a stint from 1996-1999, making him one of Israel’s most powerful premiers.
Netanyahu has railed against Bennett’s agreement with Lapid, calling it a “fraud” and saying only a Likud-led government can keep Israelis safe.
Netanyahu's potential removal comes less than one month after Israel and Hamas, the political militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, spent 11 days exchanging some of the fiercest fire between the two since 2014. The fighting followed weeks of unrest between Israelis and Palestinians in and around Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank and Israel.
While he would be Israel’s opposition leader if he is ousted, Netanyahu would also lose key legal protections that he currently enjoys as prime minister as he fights an indictment on corruption charges. He was charged in 2019 with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, after which he began to be seen as a polarizing figure, the AP reported.
His grip on power began to falter as right-wing parties that were former allies agreed to join Lapid’s coalition in part due to personal feuds with Netanyahu.
Last-minute efforts to win over right-wing defections from Lapid’s coalition failed, though lingering allies of Netanyahu blasted Bennett’s decision to join in with Yesh Atid.
“We won’t forget and we won’t forgive,” Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionists, said of Bennett, according to The Associated Press.