Pressure Grows on Israel Coalition, and Netanyahu Vows to Fight On

The deal to form a new government papered over sharp differences among the parties on vital issues, which could cause the fragile alliance to sputter.,

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Netanyahu vows to fight on as difficult details may yet doom the proposed coalition.

Supporters of Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu of Israel protested against the proposed coalition in Tel Aviv, on Wednesday.
Supporters of Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu of Israel protested against the proposed coalition in Tel Aviv, on Wednesday. Credit…Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • June 2, 2021

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the precipice of being ousted from office after more than a decade in power, made it clear on Thursday that he intended to fight on.

“All the lawmakers who were elected by right-wing voters must oppose this dangerous left-wing government,” he wrote on Twitter.

By midday, he had begun an all-out campaign against the nascent coalition of opposition parties, listing concessions that he claimed Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett had made to secure an alliance with Raam, the Arab Islamist party.

His bellicose claims signaled what could be a bitter fight in the days ahead.

They also came as details about the fraught last-minute negotiations to secure an alliance started to come into focus.

Mr. Lapid, the leader of the Israeli opposition, had until midnight on Wednesday to cobble together an unlikely coalition to topple Mr. Netanyahu. He needed almost every minute — leaving it until 11:22 p.m. to inform Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s largely ceremonial president, that he had assembled an eight-party alliance formed of hard-right parties, leftists, centrists and Arab Islamists.

“The government will do everything it can to unite every part of Israeli society,” Mr. Lapid said in a statement released shortly after his call with Mr. Rivlin.

Mr. Lapid’s celebrations will be put on hold for several days, however. The speaker of the Israeli Parliament, Yariv Levin, is a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s party, Likud, and can use parliamentary procedure to delay the confidence vote until June 14, constitutional experts said.

That would give Mr. Netanyahu’s party time to pile pressure on wavering members of Mr. Lapid’s fragile coalition, in a bid to persuade them to abandon the new alliance. Many of them feel uncomfortable about working with one another and have made difficult compromises to join forces to push Mr. Netanyahu from office.

Officials of several of the parties making up the new alliance said early Thursday that the internal coalition agreements between them, and even the distribution of ministerial posts, had not yet been finalized.

Mr. Lapid agreed to give Naftali Bennett, a hard-right former settler leader who opposes Palestinian statehood, the chance to lead the government until 2023, at which point Mr. Lapid will take over.

Having these tensions on full display even before the coalition was officially formed has left many Israelis wondering whether it will last more than a few months, let alone its full term.

Should the coalition collapse, analysts believe Mr. Lapid may emerge with more credit than Mr. Bennett. While Mr. Bennett gets first crack at the premiership, his decision to work with centrists and leftists has angered his small following.

“Lapid has made a very strong set of decisions, conveyed an amazing level of maturity and really made a big statement about a different kind of leadership,” said Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israeli political analyst and pollster at the Century Foundation, a New York-based research group. “That will not be lost on the Israeli public.”

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