A legal challenge by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to thwart a rival right-wing bid to head a new government has been rejected as his opponents rushed to seal a pact that would oust him.
Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s former defense minister, had announced on Sunday that he would join a proposed alliance with centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid, who would be his first prime minister in a rotation deal.
They have until midnight (21:00 GMT) to present a final pact to Rivlin, who handed Lapid the task of forming a new government after Netanyahu failed to do so after the March 23 closed elections.
Hoping to pass the deadline, Lapid, Bennett and other party leaders met to reach coalition agreements, informed sources said in the talks.
In a letter to the legal advisers to the presidency and parliament, Netanyahu’s conservative Likud said Lapid was not allowed to hand over the presidency to Bennett.
But President Reuven Rivlin’s office said in response that there was no legal merit to Likud’s claim that Lapid would be sworn in as “alternative prime minister,” the second to be prime minister as part of the rotation.
He accepted Likud’s argument that Lapid should provide the president with all the details of the new government and not just announce that he has signed a coalition agreement.
Lapid-Bennett’s share of power may include other right-wing politicians, as well as liberal and center-left parties. Israeli media have speculated that it could also judicialize the parliamentary support of a party that draws votes from the Israeli minority of Palestinian citizens.
This has led to Netanyahu accusing Bennett of endangering himself in Israel as he fights internal conflicts, as Palestinians protest Israeli attempts to evict them from their homes and restrict access to sacred sites. of the Old City of Jerusalem, the dying peace process with the Palestinians. and Iran.
Netanyahu, 71, is the dominant political figure of his generation. He was elected prime minister in 1996 and returned to power in 2009, holding the highest office for more than a decade. But he also faces a process of corruption for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, charges he denies.
A digitally modified image of Bennett in a Palestinian keffiyeh, spread on social media, sparked comparisons with attempts to discredit former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated in 1995 by an ultranationalist opposed to his pacification.
An Israeli security source said Bennett had received parliamentary bodyguards on the recommendation of the national intelligence agency Shin Bet because of the “atmosphere of incitement” against him.
Lapid and Bennett have said they want to bring together Israelis from across the political divide and end the hateful political discourse.
“A divided and violent country will not be able to deal with Iran or the economy. A leadership that incites us against each other impairs our ability to meet the challenges we face, ”Lapid said.