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Netanyahu looks to pick off right-wing lawmakers to block new coalition

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE is railing against the formation of a new governing coalition that is set to oust him from power, waging an 11th hour effort to pick off enough right-wing lawmakers to deny it a governing majority.

Netanyahu took to Twitter to denounce the formation of the coalition by center-left lawmaker Yair Lapid. The prime minister specifically called on old allies now part of the group to defect, specifically citing the participation of an Arab party, Raam, in the coalition.

Netanyahu accused Naftali Bennett, a nationalist lawmaker whose party’s participation is giving the coalition a 61-seat majority in the 120-member parliament, of selling out the government to Raam and said, “All right-wing Knesset members must oppose this dangerous left-wing government.”

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The prime minister’s Likud party specifically called out Gideon Saar, Sharan Hashakel, Zeev Elkin and other right-wing coalition members, calling on them to “fulfill your commitments” and “withdraw” from the new group.

Picking off right-wing coalition members is likely the only way to undermine the group before the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, holds a confidence vote in the coming days to confirm the coalition’s status as the ruling government.

Lapid announced Wednesday that he had formed the coalition, which is made up of eight ideologically diverse parties, including left-wing parties, Raam, Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Bennett’s nationalist party, among others.

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 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, raising speculation that a government ruled by the coalition could falter.

Still, the Wednesday announcement that a coalition has been formed marks a historic defeat of Netanyahu, who has served 12 consecutive years leading Israel in addition to a stint from 1996-1999.

Netanyahu has used his tenure to morph himself into one of Israel’s most powerful leaders in the country’s young history, and he is expected to lead the opposition in the government should the Knesset confirm his removal. 

However, his ouster could thrust him into legal jeopardy as he would lose key protections he’s enjoyed as he faces a 2019 indictment on bribery, fraud and breach of trust.