GIL HOFFMAN, TZVI JOFFRE
Smotrich rules out a coalition with Ra’am that his party’s MK-elect says would “castrate the Israeli ethos.”
Bennett and Netanyahu shake hands in Knesset / (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with political kingmaker Naftali Bennett at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Friday and discussed the need to form a “stable, functioning government as soon as possible,” a spokesman for Bennett said after the meeting.
Netanyahu was expected to offer Bennett key ministerial posts and a merger of Bennett’s Yamina into Netanyahu’s Likud. But he was not expected to offer Bennett what he is seeking: A rotation as prime minister.
Bennett declined to reveal his intentions when he spoke to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office before the meeting.
“We [in Yamina] have one goal, and that is forming a good and stable government that will help Israeli citizens as soon as possible,” Bennett said. “We will do everything possible to bring that about.”
Sources close to New Hope head Gideon Sa’ar said on Friday that an Israel Hayom headline about Bennett offering Netanyahu that the Yamina leader would go first in a rotation with the prime minister that would be backed from outside the coalition by New Hope was incorrect.
The sources said that not only would he keep his promise to not sit in a Netanyahu-led government, he also would not back from outside a coalition in which Netanyahu serves as alternate prime minister.
Bennett will be meeting on Saturday night with opposition leader Yair Lapid, who is expected to offer Bennett to go first in a rotation as prime minister. But sources close to Bennett said on Thursday night that he had already decided not to recommend Lapid to form a government when he meets with President Reuven Rivlin on Monday.
To obtain a majority of 61 MKs, Netanyahu and Lapid would need the backing of both Yamina and the Ra’am (United Arab List) Party of MK Mansour Abbas.
Religious Zionist party leader Bezalel Smotrich reiterated on Friday morning that his party would not sit in a government with Ra’am or “other supporters of terror,” after Abbas delivered a speech in Hebrew on Thursday calling for coexistence.
“Forming a government that will rely on Ra’am and Abbas will be a disaster and weeping for generations and we will not allow it to form,” said Smotrich, calling for Sa’ar and Bennett to join a right-wing government led by Netanyahu.
“Whoever gives a hand to Abbas’ ‘outstretched hand’ castrates – consciously or unconsciously – the most basic Israeli ethos,” warned incoming Religious Zionist Party MK-elect Orit Struck on Friday in response to Abbas’s statements that he was stretching out his arm toward coexistence within Israel.
“Whoever gives a hand to Abbas’ ‘outstretched hand’ castrates – consciously or unconsciously – the most basic Israeli ethos and, on the way, kicks those Arabs who are willing to accept this ethos, enlist in the IDF, and work for a true partnership with the State of Israel,” tweeted Struck.
But in an effort to change Smotrich’s decision to not rely on Ra’am to form a coalition, outgoing Likud MK Ayoub Kara met on Friday with the Religious Zionist Party’s mentor, Rabbi Haim Druckman. Kara The Jerusalem Post after the meeting that it was “very interesting” and that both he and the rabbi were optimistic that Netanyahu would be able to form a coalition.
Abbas delivered a speech in Hebrew in Nazareth on Thursday night, in an effort to reach out to Jewish Israelis, but he did not reveal his political plans.
“What unites us is stronger than what divides us,” he said. “The time has come for listening to others.”