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Netanyahu: Naftali Bennett as Israel’s prime minister is ‘absurd’

CM 19/04/2021

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Yamina leader Naftali Bennett has made a decision to “go with the Left,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a closed-door meeting with United Torah Judaism MKs on Monday at the Knesset. 
Netanyahu and Bennett held a tense meeting on Monday, their fifth since Netanyahu received a mandate to form a government from President Reuven Rivlin two weeks ago.
“His feeling is that he has closed a deal over there,” a UTJ MK told The Jerusalem Post after the meeting with Netanyahu.
Earlier, Netanyahu told his Likud faction that a government led by Bennett, whose party has seven seats, would be “absurd.”
“The moment of truth for Bennett has arrived,” Netanyahu said. “He promised not to sit under [Yesh Atid leader Yair] Lapid, with Meretz and Labor and with the support of the Joint List. So he must stop galloping toward a left-wing government.”
In the closed-door portion of the faction meeting, Netanyahu said what his opponents call a unity government would only bring more governmental paralysis, would break Bennett’s promises and would be “very bad for Israel.”
The prime minister challenged Bennett to back direct elections for prime minister and the Likud’s proposal for running the Knesset until a government is formed, saying that 
direct elections for prime minister is the solution to the political crisis.  

Kingmaker Mansour Abbas said on Monday that he does not rule out enabling a government led by Bennett, just like he would enable a government led by Netanyahu.
Speaking with the emblem of Israel in back of him, Abbas said it is wrong to call his Ra’am (United Arab List) Party supporters of terror, as Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich has. Abbas said his party was undecided on the direct election for prime minister bill.
Smotrich called upon Bennett to decide whether he will be with the Right or the Left. He said he did not believe Bennett really backed a government that would rely on Abbas’s Ra’am Party, which he said identifies with Israel’s enemies.
“As soon as it is clear where everyone stands, I am sure a right-wing government of the entire nationalist bloc can be formed,” Smotrich said.
New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar told his faction on Monday that he would not enable Netanyahu to form a government or initiate a new Knesset race or a direct election for prime minister.
Sa’ar spoke for the first time since Netanyahu called upon him to “come home to Likud” in a speech in Ramat Gan on Friday.
“Our view hasn’t changed,” Sa’ar said. “There are two alternatives: A right-wing government led by someone else or a unity government that will allow New Hope to maintain its worldview. Both options are better than new elections, whether for Knesset or just for prime minister.”
Sa’ar quoted Netanyahu saying when he was opposition leader that “an electoral system is not a pair of socks that can be changed every day.”
Lapid blasted the direct election bill, which was submitted by Shas MKs Michael Malkieli and Moshe Arbel on Monday, calling it a “fifth election that would further paralyze the country and continue the focus on Netanyahu.” He said the only reason Netanyahu has proposed the idea is that he cannot form a government and that a unity government without Netanyahu would be formed in three weeks.
In an effort to build a coalition, Lapid met on Monday with the heads of Yisrael Beytenu, Meretz, the Joint List and Ra’am.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz told his Blue and White faction that continued political uncertainty would be dangerous for Israel.
“If we don’t unite among us, we won’t be strong against our enemies,” Gantz said. He ruled out direct elections for prime minister, calling it “changing the rules of the game during the game” and warned Bennett and Abbas “not to fall into [Netanyahu’s] trap.”    
“Naftali, you come from the world of business,” Gantz said. “Netanyahu is asking you to file for ethical, moral and political bankruptcy.”
Labor leader Merav Michaeli said the direct election bill is mere political spin designed to distract from government inactivity and that it is not a serious suggestion.
Idan Zonshine contributed to this report.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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