Media reports on Thursday indicated that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had met with one of his political advisers in Tel Aviv. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the possibility of establishing an alternative government with the Likud party, which belongs to Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition. However, the Yamina party of the prime minister denied the report.
For weeks, the government coalition has been teetering on the brink of collapse, as it lost its majority in the Knesset and was unable to pass any legislation. It is possible to set up another government in the existing Knesset, if a majority can be assembled by another candidate. This would eliminate the need for holding yet another round of elections in the country.
Likud, Yamina and the other parties in the right-wing religious bloc in the current Knesset would still not be able to offer the 61-seat majority required. Thus, Bennett was talking to the adviser about potentially roping another party for forming a prospective coalition, such as the New Hope party of Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar. Previously, both Sa’ar and Bennett had cooperated with the opposition leader, but they eventually turned against him.
During the election campaign last year and the subsequent negotiations for the coalition, both leaders stated that they would not form a government with Netanyahu. On Thursday, the Yamina party confirmed that Bennett had indeed met with a political adviser, but denied that the topic of discussion was cooperating with Likud.
Orbach Under Pressure
This report comes amidst another report of Nir Orbach in negotiations with Likud. He is a right-wing member of the Yamina party and a lawmaker in the Knesset, who decided to freeze his role in the coalition in the previous week. The Likud party has been urging him to quit the coalition altogether and join the ranks of the opposition. However, Orbach has denied all reports of negotiating with Likud.
The coalition of Naftali Bennett comprises of an array of parties that are ideologically diverse. They include centrist, right-wing as well as left-wing parties and the Islamist Ra’am. The opposition has been trying to lure away members of the right-wing faction because they share ideologies with them.
On Thursday, Netanyahu gave a memorial speech for the Atalena disaster victims in which he prodded Nir Orbach. He stated that he was aware that Orbach did not want a government relying on the Shura Council of the Muslim Brotherhood, referring to the advisory body of the Ra’am party. The coalition has been criticized by the opposition leader and his allies for adding Ra’am, even though he had also courted the party before the elections last year.
Netanyahu said that Orbach was right when saw that the experiment of the existing government has failed. Reports last week said that Orbach had nearly gotten into a physical altercation with Mazen Ghanaim, a lawmaker from the Ra’am party, and had said that the experiment with the party i.e. its inclusion in the coalition, was a failure.