Israeli politicians fighting to oust veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are competing against the clock on the last day of talks to build a governing coalition made up of bitter ideological rivals.
They have until a minute before midnight (20:59 GMT) for Wednesday to convene an administration that would end the twelve-year rule of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
The expression of great bet is directed by the former television presenter Yair Lapid, a secular centrist, who on Sunday gained crucial support of right-wing religious nationalist Naftali Bennett, a multimillion-dollar technology.
Lapid plans to announce on Wednesday at 11:00 am (08:00 GMT) that he can form a government, Israel Channel 12 news reported on Tuesday afternoon.
The Times of Israel reported that Lapid’s goal is for the Knesset speaker to schedule a vote to swear in the new coalition on June 9th.
To achieve a 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, the unlikely Lapid and Bennett alliance would also have to include other left-wing and right-wing parties and would likely need the support of parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel.
This would translate into a government full of profound ideological differences over specific issues, such as illegal Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the role of religion in politics.
Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, was tasked with forming a government by President Reuven Rivlin after Netanyahu failed to regain a majority after Israel’s fourth conclusive election in less than two years.
Lapid would have agreed to allow Bennett, who leads the Yamina party, to serve first as a rotating prime minister in a power-sharing deal, before taking over in the middle of his term.
On Wednesday, the Knesset will also elect the country’s next president, a position largely to serve as the nation’s moral compass and promote unity.
Israel’s latest political turmoil adds to the problems of Netanyahu, who is on trial on criminal charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust during the charge, allegations he denies.
It also follows the latter outbreak of struggle between Israeli and Palestinian armed groups in the besieged Gaza Strip, which ended after eleven days of deadly violence with an Egyptian ceasefire on 21 May.
The Israeli bombing killed at least 253 Palestinians in Gaza. At least 12 people have been killed in Israel by rockets fired by armed groups in Gaza.
Netanyahu, who served a previous three-year term in the 1990s, had warned on Sunday “of a left-wing government dangerous to the state of Israel.”
The prime minister, who leads the right-wing Likud party and has developed a reputation as a shrewd political operator, was facing the new alliance.
Likud’s lawyers tried to curb the emerging coalition by challenging Bennett’s right to serve first as prime minister, as it was Lapid who was accused of forming the government.
But the legal adviser to the President of Israel he dropped the challenge. Meanwhile, opponents of the possible alternative government accused Bennett and his right-wing partners of betraying their voters.
Spokesmen for Lapid and Bennett confirmed to the AFP news agency that the two have received additional security protection.
Lapid said Monday that obstacles remained to build the coalition, but added: “This is our first test: to see if we can find smart compromises in the coming days to achieve the bigger goal.”
To build the anti-Netanyahu bloc, Lapid must sign individual agreements with seven parties, whose members would vote in parliament to confirm his coalition.
They include the hawkish New Hope party of Netanyahu’s exiled Gideon Saar and the pro-settlement party Yisrael Beitenu of secular nationalist Avigdor Lieberman.
The blue and white centrist party of Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the historically powerful center-left Labor party and the meringue meringue party would also unite.
The support of the Palestinian party?
If these parties started the session, the emerging alliance would still need the support of four more lawmakers.
To cross the threshold, Lapid has parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Mansour Abbas, head of the united Arab list, which has four seats, entered on Tuesday before entering a hotel near Tel Aviv to negotiate, and said his party would be part of the coalition, the Israeli media.
Abbas’s party, which split from the coalition from the joint list made up mostly of Palestinian parties, is focusing on finalizing agreements with Yamina and her number two, according to Ayelet Shaked, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
“Shaked is expected to be appointed interior minister in the future government and Abbas hopes to appoint a deputy from his party as deputy,” Haaretz reported.
Abbas has expressed his openness to any agreement that improves the living conditions of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who represent about 20 percent of Israel’s population.
Political analyst Afif Abu Much said on Tuesday that Abbas would not hold ministerial office, but wanted to chair two parliamentary committees and budgets for Palestinian communities.
He also sought to repeal a law that has toughened sanctions for illegal construction, which is seen to disproportionately affect Palestinian communities.
Abbas told reporters on Tuesday that negotiations seemed to be heading “in the right direction,” but also said, “Until it’s over, nothing is over.”
Meanwhile, Hadash, one of the three coalition parties on the joint list, said Tuesday that its three lawmakers will vote against the proposed government, Israeli media reported.
Balar, another party on the joint list, with only one legislator in the Knesset, also said it would vote against the government, Haaretz reported.
Ta’al of Ahmad Tibi, the third member of the joint list with two lawmakers, has not yet announced any decision.
If Lapid fails to muster a majority and lawmakers cannot agree on another prime ministerial candidate, the Israelis could, once again, return to the polls.