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Minggu, 30 Mei 2021

Rivals form new coalition in bid to end Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year run as Israeli prime minister - ABC News

A former ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to join a rival coalition of parties, a major step toward ending the veteran leader's rule.

The announcement by Naftali Bennett, leader of the small, hardline Yamina party, on Sunday (local time) set the stage for Mr Netanyahu and his dominant Likud party to be pushed into the opposition in the coming week.

While Mr Bennett and his new partners, headed by opposition leader Yair Lapid, still face some obstacles, they appeared to be serious about reaching a deal and ending the deadlock that has plunged the country into four elections in the past two years.

"It's my intention to do my utmost in order to form a national unity government along with my friend Yair Lapid, so that, God willing, together we can save the country from a tailspin and return Israel to its course," Mr Bennett said.

The pair have until Wednesday to complete a deal in which each is expected to serve two years as prime minister in a rotation agreement, with Mr Bennett holding the job first.

Mr Lapid's Yesh Atid party said negotiating teams were to meet later on Sunday.

Egypt hosts talks on Gaza truce

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Thursday, May 20, 2021.
Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire after 11 days exchanging air strikes and rockets.(

AP: Hatem Moussa

)

It comes as Egypt and Israel held high-level talks on Sunday to shore up a fragile truce between Israel and the Hamas militant group and rebuild the Gaza Strip after a punishing 11-day war that left parts of the seaside enclave in ruins.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry received his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, in Cairo.

The meeting was part of an effort to build on an Israel-Hamas cease-fire reached on May 21, and to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which have been dormant for more than a decade, Shukry's office said.

Egypt has not said how it would be able to restart talks.

The hours-long visit was the first public one by an Israeli foreign minister to Egypt since 2008, according to the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

Spokesman Ahmed Hafez said Shukry called for establishing an atmosphere to relaunch "serious and constructive" negotiations between the two sides. He also urged both sides to refrain from "any measures" that could hamper efforts to revive peace talks.

They also discussed the release of Israeli soldiers and citizens being held by Hamas, Israel's top diplomat said.

'Focus on what can be done'

Mr Bennett, a former top aide to Mr Netanyahu who has held senior Cabinet posts, shares the Prime Minister's hard-line ideology.

He is a former leader of the West Bank settlement movement and heads a small party whose base includes religious and nationalist Jews.

Yet, he has had a strained and complicated relationship with his one-time mentor due to personal differences.

Mr Bennett said there was no feasible way after the deadlocked March 23 election to form a right-wing government favoured by Mr Netanyahu. He said another election would yield the same results and said it was time to end the cycle.

"A government like this will succeed only if we work together as a group," he said.

He said everyone "will need to postpone fulfilling part of their dreams. We will focus on what can be done, instead of fighting all day on what's impossible".

Naftali Bennett speaks behind a lectern with Israeli flags in the background.
Naftali Bennett was an aide to Mr Netanyahu but they had personal differences.(

Reuters: Yonatan Sindel

)

If Mr Bennett and Mr Lapid and their other partners can wrap up a deal, it would end, at least for the time being, the record-setting tenure of Mr Netanyahu, the most dominant figure in Israeli politics over the past three decades.

In his own televised statement, Mr Netanyahu accused Mr Bennett of betraying the Israeli right wing and urged nationalist politicians not to join what he called a "leftist government."

"A government like this is a danger to the security of Israel, and is also a danger to the future of the state," he said.

As leader of the largest party, Mr Netanyahu was given the first opportunity by the country's figurehead president to form a coalition. But he was unable to secure a majority with his traditional religious and nationalist allies.

After Mr Netanyahu's failure to form a government, Mr Lapid was then given four weeks to cobble together a coalition. He has until Wednesday to complete the task.

'Anything might happen'

Yohanan Plessner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, said Mr Netanyahu would try to undermine efforts to unseat him until the end.

Mr Netanyahu's main strategy, he said, would be to try to appeal to hard-liners in both Mr Bennett's party and New Hope, another hard-line party led by a former Netanyahu confidant, to withdraw their support for the new coalition.

A defection of just one or two lawmakers could prevent Mr Lapid from mustering a majority and force another election.

"Anything might happen," Mr Plessner said. "I would wait for the final vote to go through."

Even if Mr Lapid and Mr Bennett manage to put together a government, Mr Netanyahu is unlikely to disappear, Mr Plessner said.

Mr Netanyahu could remain as opposition leader, working to exploit the deep ideological differences among his opponents to cause the coalition to fracture.

"History teaches us it would be unwise to write him off," he said.

AP/Reuters

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2021-05-30 23:17:36Z
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