Israeli opposition leader says deal reached to form govt to oust Netanyahu

Israeli opposition leader says deal reached to form govt to oust Netanyahu

Israel's opposition parties say they have agreed to form a coalition government.

Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, was tasked with forming a government by President Reuven Rivlin after Netanyahu again failed to put together his own coalition following Israel's fourth inconclusive election in less than two years.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid announced the deal just minutes before a midnight (2100 GMT) Wednesday deadline, prompting celebrations into the early hours by the premier's opponents and a defiant show of support by his fans.

According to Israeli law, the Knesset must hold a vote of confidence within a week of being formally notified of a new government being formed.

"Now going forward, we seek lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians alike", he said.

Likud's lawyers yesterday tried to hobble the emerging coalition by challenging Bennett's right to serve first as prime minister, given that it was Lapid who was charged with forming the government.

"We would have had influence if all the (Arab) parties had stayed together".

Netanyahu, facing the prospect of an end to his 12-year run as premier, said on Twitter "all legislators elected by votes from the right must oppose this risky left-wing government", and he targeted historic Arab participation in the coalition.

Netanyahu had hoped to extend his long rule and battle the corruption charges from the prime minister's office. If he fails, he will be pushed into the opposition.

"I have no intention of holding talks with those who didn't make any effort over the last two months to form a right-wing government", he said, seemingly signaling he would not heed calls from Netanyahu and others to vote against the proposed government.

If it passes, the new government and prime minister will be sworn in.

During a 12-year run in top office, Israel's longest serving leader has been an often polarizing figure at home and overseas.

Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamic conservative Raam party, which has four seats, has generally voiced openness to any arrangement that improves living conditions for Israel's 20 per cent Arab minority of Palestinian descent. And each ended in deadlock, with both Netanyahu's supporters as well as his secular, Arab and dovish opponents falling short of a majority.

"All lawmakers who were elected with votes from the right must oppose this unsafe left-wing government", he said. He made annexation of parts of territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war a major feature of his political platform, but following through on that with the broad new coalition looked to be politically unfeasible.

This paves the way to remove Netanyahu and replace him with Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right-wing party Yamina, CNN reports. "This agreement has a lot of things for the benefit of Arab society, and Israeli society in general".

"I succeeded", Lapid, a former TV news anchor, wrote on Facebook.

Allies of Netanyahu, 71, lashed out at the coalition.

Now that the trial is continuing, Netanyahu, if proven guilty, could face up to 10 years behind bars for bribery and up to 3 years for fraud and breach of trust.

Negotiations were held up as Bennett's party, Yamina, haggled over control of a panel that appoints judges. Bennett was a successful high-tech entrepreneur and leader of the West Bank settler movement before entering politics.

Orbach has long voiced reluctance to back the coalition, but had previously vowed to resign from the Knesset rather than actively vote against the bloc.

Gantz would remain defence minister in the new cabinet, the parties said. In 1992, when a peace process was underway with the Palestinians, Arab Israeli lawmakers backed a Labour coalition from the outside but did not take part in the negotiations. During the recent election campaign, Bennett had publicly vowed never to share power with Lapid or an Arab party.

In order to form a government, a party leader must secure the support of a 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament. Thirteen parties of various sizes are in the current parliament.

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