Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog said on Thursday that his Zionist Union faction was not considering joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a national unity government and that the deadline for forming a new government would be midnight on Thursday.

The Israeli government has so far been unable to secure a majority of the Knesset for the formation of a new government – the deadline for this passed last night. The main opposition on the right, Likud, is now working on bringing the ultra-Orthodox Shas party into the fold – an important if naive step, given that Likud is one of the few parties in the world that does not recognize Israel’s status as a Jewish state. Likud is also likely to seek the support of the Jewish Home party, which is supported by many of the country’s religious nationalists. The centrist Yesh Atid has ruled out backing either Likud or Jewish Home, leaving the Government formation process in the

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Naftali Bennett (left) and Yair Lapid in Parliament on Wednesday. If the talks are successful, they will share the post of prime minister. JERUZALEM – Israel’s opposition parties reached a coalition agreement Wednesday to form a government and oust Binyamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history and the dominant figure who has pushed his country’s politics to the right. The parties’ statement could end the political impasse that has led to four elections in two years and left Israel without a stable government or state budget. If Parliament ratifies the fragile deal in a vote of confidence in the coming days, the curtain will also fall, if only for the break, on the tenure of a leader who has defined modern Israel like no other. The new coalition is an unusual and uneasy alliance of eight political parties representing a range of ideologies from the left to the far right. This includes the entry of a small Arab party called Ra’am, which will be the first Arab grouping to be part of a right-liberal coalition in Israel’s history. While some analysts see it as reflecting the breadth and complexity of modern society, others believe the members are too incompatible to allow their pact to continue and see it as the embodiment of Israeli political dysfunction. In 2023, the alliance will be led by Naftali Bennett, a religious leader of former settlers who opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and wants Israel to annex much of the occupied West Bank. He is a former ally of Mr Netanyahu, who is often described as more right-wing than the prime minister. If the government lasts the entire term, between 2023 and 2025, it will be led by Yair Lapid, a centrist former broadcaster who is considered the standard-bearer of secular Israelis. Bennett, 49, the son of American immigrants, is a former software entrepreneur, army commander, Netanyahu chief of staff and defense minister. He lives in central Israel, but once headed an umbrella organization, the Yesha Council, representing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Until the last election cycle, Bennett was part of a political alliance with Bezalel Smotrich, a far-right leader. Although Bennett’s Yamin party won only seven of the 120 seats in parliament, the anti-Netanyahu forces could not form a government without his support, allowing him to set the terms of his participation in the coalition. Lapid, 57, is a former news anchor and journalist who became a politician nine years ago and later became finance minister in the Netanyahu-led coalition. His party came second in the general election in March with 17 seats. But Lapid considers Netanyahu’s impeachment more important than his bid to become the first prime minister. word-image-8956 In this photo made available by the United Arab List Raam, Ra’am Mansour Abbas (R) signs a coalition agreement with Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid (L) and right-wing nationalist tech millionaire Naftali Bennett in Ramat Gan today.Credit…United Arab List Raam, via Agence France-Presse – Getty Images Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid had until midnight Wednesday to put together an unlikely coalition to depose Binyamin Netanyahu. He took almost every minute – until 11:22 p.m. – to tell Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s most ceremonial president, that he had put together an alliance of eight parties. The government will do its best to unite every part of Israeli society, Lapid said in a statement issued shortly after his talks with Rivlin. However, Mr. Lapid’s celebration will be postponed for a few days. Israel’s parliament speaker, Yariv Levin, is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party and could use parliamentary procedure to have a vote of confidence postponed by Monday, June 14, constitutional experts said. Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s party has vowed to pressure wavering members of Lapid’s fragile coalition of hard-right, left, centrist and Arab-Islamic parties to leave. Many of them are already uncomfortable with the cooperation and are making difficult compromises to join forces and oust Mr Netanyahu from the presidency. Lapid himself has agreed that Naftali Bennett, a former settler leader who opposes a Palestinian state, will lead the government until 2023, after which Lapid will succeed him. Foreshadowing the coming friction, the Arab Islamic party Ra’amm announced that it had joined the coalition after receiving guarantees of improved land and housing rights for the Arab minority that many hardline Israelis find unacceptable, including a settlement of the status of three illegally built Arab towns in the Negev desert. An hour before the agreement was announced, Nir Orbach, a hard-right lawmaker whose colleagues say he was particularly uncertain about joining the coalition, tweeted: We will not abandon the Negev. Period. The fact that these tensions manifested themselves even before the coalition was formally formed led many Israelis to question whether the coalition could last more than a few months, let alone for the duration of its existence. Analysts say Lapid could get more credit than Bennett in the event of a collapse of the coalition. As Bennett takes his first chance in the Prime Minister’s Office, his decision to work with centrists and leftists has outraged his already small following. Mr. Lapid has made some very strong decisions, shown an amazing level of maturity and really made a big statement about a different kind of leadership, said Dalia Scheindlin, an Israeli political analyst and sociologist at the Century Foundation, a New York-based research group. This will not go unnoticed by the Israeli public. Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition.Credit…Gil Cohen-Magen/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images Now that the opposition parties have agreed on a coalition government, they have up to seven days to present the government to parliament for a vote of confidence. Some disagreements within the fractured coalition were smoothed out just before Israel’s midnight deadline on Wednesday. With the fate of the new coalition hanging by a thread and dependent on every vote, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his allies were on the hunt for potential defectors until the announcement, saying they would continue until the confidence vote. The coalition, which includes members of both the right and left, is united mainly by its opposition to Mr. Netanyahu, who has been prime minister since 2009. In the past two years, Israel has held four parliamentary elections, which were never successful, leaving the country without a stable government and a national budget. If the opposition fails to form a government, this could lead to new elections. Mansour Abbas (center), chairman of the Arab Raam Party, at an election rally in February. The new government will have to rely on Raam’s support to pass a confidence vote and control parliament.Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times One of the family members least likely to participate in the formation of a new government is Mansour Abbas, the leader of a small Arab party, known by its Hebrew acronym Ra’am, which has four seats in the current parliament. According to the 11 a.m. agreement, Raam formally agreed to join the Lapid-Bennett coalition government, although it did not gain a single seat in the cabinet. The decision was somewhat surprising, as the party had been expected to stay out of the coalition but support it in a vote of confidence in parliament. Some Arab lawmakers played a similar role in providing external support to Yitzhak Rabin’s government in the 1990s. Arab parties have not been directly involved with Israeli governments for decades. They are largely shunned by the other parties and are reluctant to join a government that controls the occupation of the Palestinian territories and Israeli military actions. But after decades of political marginalization, many Palestinians, who make up one-fifth of Israel’s population, are seeking greater integration. The first leftist governments in Israel included Arab parties that were closely allied with predominantly Jewish parties. Raam will be the first independent Arab party in government and the first Arab party of any kind in a right-wing government. After the March elections, Raam was willing to work with Netanyahu’s supporters and opponents and use his influence to win concessions for the Arab population. The party has refused to sign a deal unless it is guaranteed more resources and rights for Israel’s Arab minority, including reforms to housing laws that potential hard-right coalition partners will not accept. Naftali Bennett, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2020. linked to credit Sebastian Shiner/Associated Press Naftali Bennett, who may become Israel’s next prime minister, is a former high-tech entrepreneur, who has become best known for his contention that there should never be a full-fledged Palestinian state and that Israel should annex most of the occupied West Bank. Bennett, 49, is the independently wealthy son of American immigrants. He entered the Israeli parliament only eight years ago and is relatively unknown and inexperienced on the international stage. Much of the world – and many Israelis – wondered what kind of leader he might be. Bennett is the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, and is often seen as more right-wing than his former boss. Oscillating between seemingly contradictory alliances, Mr Bennett has been called an extremist and an opportunist. Allies say he is simply a pragmatist, less ideological than he seems and without Netanyahu’s tendency to demonize opponents. By Mr. Bennett’s standards, he has done an unusual job, even by the confused standards of Israeli politics. He almost made it to the top, although his party, Yamina, won only seven of the 120 seats in parliament. Bennett used his modest but decisive influence on voters after an undecided election in March, the fourth in Israel in the past two years. He took part in the coalition talks as an organizer and seems to be the one who will wear the crown. Bennett has long been an advocate for West Bank settlers and once chaired a council representing them, although he is not a settler himself. He adheres to religious rites – he will be the first prime minister to wear a yarmulke – but he will lead a largely secular coalition government. He will lead a shaky coalition that includes the entire Israeli political spectrum, from left to right, and a small Arab Islamist party, most of whose members reject his ideas on settlements and annexation. This coalition proposes to document its disagreements on Israeli-Palestinian relations by focusing on domestic issues. Bennett explained his reasons for joining this ideological opposition as a last resort to break the political deadlock that has paralyzed Israel. Israel’s political crisis is unprecedented on a global scale, he said Sunday in a televised address. We may find ourselves in the fifth, sixth, or even tenth election, tearing down the walls of the land stone by stone until our house collapses on us. Or we can stop the madness and take responsibility. Supporters of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv in 2019.Credit…Corinna Kern/Reuters. On Wednesday afternoon, Edith Silman, a strong-willed MP, sat in her office in Parliament flipping through the hundreds of text messages she had recently received from unknown numbers. Some of them were accompanied by obscene language. Some warned her that she would go to hell. They all demanded that their party abandon coalition talks with an alliance of centrist, left-wing and right-wing lawmakers who want to oust Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the first time in 12 years. It’s very difficult, Silman said. People would rather pressure Idit Silman than see Binyamin Netanyahu leave Balfour Street, she added, referring to where the prime minister’s official residence is located. As opposition negotiators try to meet a midnight deadline to agree on a new government, supporters of Netanyahu and his Likud party are working overtime to pressure Ms. Silman and others in Mr. Yamin’s right-wing party. Many right-wing Israelis consider Yameena’s dislike of Netanyahu a betrayal. This rush has given Mrs Silman and her colleagues food for thought – and an incentive to stretch the negotiations out as long as possible. Although Yamina joined the coalition Wednesday night, Netanyahu’s Likud party will likely continue to play on these fears. Parliament may not express confidence in the new government for another 10 days, giving Netanyahu more time to convince Jamaican lawmakers to change course. Her party has already vowed to continue harassing Ms Silman and her colleagues. Behind the scenes, said a senior Likud official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Likud party is stepping up the pressure, especially on its weakest links. The pressure continued unabated for several days, with Silman and her colleagues’ phone numbers reportedly posted on various WhatsApp pages and Facebook groups. This led to a flood of reports – and not just from the Israelis. Evangelical ministers in the United States have voiced their opinions, as have activists of the Hasidic religion in Britain and many others. The Likud Party denies allegations that it released figures. When Silman went to the local synagogue last week, she found some simple posters outside with her portrait on a slogan: Edith Silman has formed a government of terrorist supporters. For several days, she said, protesters held vigils in front of her home, insulted her children and harassed her with a threatening car. Yameen leader Naftali Bennett decided Sunday night to hold talks with the opposition after months of hesitation. His calculations were based on realism, analysts said: Mr Netanyahu cannot form a coalition, even with Mr Bennett’s support. Bennett can either join the opposition, which would give him the chance to become prime minister, or force the country to hold its fifth election in just over two years. We ask ourselves that question all the time, Silman said Wednesday afternoon. Is that right? Is there anything else we can do? Bennett spoke Sunday at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem. linked to credit Pool photo by Jonathan Sindel. Naftali Bennett, who leads a small right-wing party, and Yair Lapid, Israel’s center-right opposition leader, have joined forces to form a diverse coalition aimed at ousting Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. The proposed coalition, which spans Israel’s fractured political spectrum from left to right and is backed by a small Arab-Islamic party, and which its supporters call a government of change, could mean sweeping changes for Israel. Their leaders have promised to end a cycle of divisive politics and inconclusive elections. On Wednesday, the opposition parties announced a coalition agreement. But even if they survive a vote of confidence in parliament, form a government and bring down Mr Netanyahu, what change will that change in government bring if some parties will be content with little more than antipathy towards Israel’s longest-serving leader? Bennett, whose party won seven seats in parliament, is often described as more right-wing than Netanyahu. Netanyahu has rejected the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but Bennett, a religious supporter of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, openly rejects the concept of a sovereign Palestinian state and favors annexation of the West Bank. While the coalition will include several parties who disagree on these two issues, they do agree that Mr Bennett should become prime minister first. If the coalition agreement is adopted, Bennett will be replaced for the second half of his four-year term by Lapid, who represents secular, middle-class Israelis and whose party won 17 seats. By giving up first place in the rotation, Lapid, who is labeled by his right-wing opponents as dangerously left-wing, has paved the way for other right-wing politicians to join the new alliance against Netanyahu. As an example of the complexity and upheaval behind this political change, Mr. Bennett pledged before the elections not to allow a Lapid government or a government dependent on an Islamist party called Ra’am. The coalition may or may not be based on the collaboration of eight parties with different ideologies and divergent agendas on many issues. In a televised address Sunday night, Bennett said he wanted to strengthen national unity. Two thousand years ago there was a Jewish state here that collapsed due to internal conflicts, he said. This will not happen again. Not on my watch. Herzog (left), pictured here with Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, will succeed current President Reuven Rivlin in July…Pool Photo by Ronen Zvulun Although the country and its parliament are deeply divided over the formation of a new government, Israeli lawmakers met Wednesday to elect a new president – Isaac Herzog, a former Labor Party leader and government minister. With a rare degree of unanimity in the secret ballot, they voted overwhelmingly for Herzog, who is currently president of the Jewish Agency for Israel, a quasi-governmental organization that helps solve immigration problems, liaises with the Jewish diaspora and runs social programs. The president plays a largely symbolic role as a national unifier in Israel’s fragmented parliamentary democracy, where the prime minister holds most of the power. One of the most important duties of the president is to entrust the candidate with the formation of the government after the election. In the current context of political fault lines in Israel, which have led to four undecided elections in two years, this requires more than the usual amount of skill, legal interpretation and discretion. The president can also play an important role in Israeli diplomacy and has the power to pardon convicted criminals and show clemency by reducing or commuting sentences. Herzog, 60, grandson of Israel’s first chief rabbi and son of one of the country’s former presidents, Chaim Herzog, will succeed current president Reuven Rivlin in July. Our problems are many and should not be taken lightly, Herzog said in his acceptance speech. I intend to be the president of all Israelis, to listen attentively to each point of view and to respect each individual. Smoke and flames rise after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on the 10th. May on.Credit…Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock Less than a month ago, the outbreak of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip plunged Israeli and Palestinian communities into chaos. While civilian casualties are on the rise, especially on the Gaza side, the conflict has polarized Israeli society and the world in ways rarely seen before. During the war, at least 230 people were killed in Gaza, including at least 65 children, and at least 12 people were killed in Israel, including two children. Gaza’s already dilapidated infrastructure has been destroyed by Israeli airstrikes on the densely populated area. And Israeli towns within range of Hamas rockets have repeatedly closed bunkers. The war also led to unrest in Israel and the Occupied Territories, which was more explosive than in previous years. It inspired a new era of Palestinian activism and led to a political shift that colored the drama unfolding in Israel on Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know about the 11-day war and its consequences. JERUZALEM – For Israelis, the eventual ousting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving head of government, is a significant moment. The Israeli media have been flooding their audiences with reports and comments about the opposition’s attempts to form a government. But for many Palestinians, the political drama has only led to the shrugging of shoulders and the stirring of bitter memories. During Netanyahu’s 12 years in office, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has stalled, with Israeli and Palestinian leaders accusing each other of obstructing the process and Netanyahu becoming increasingly skeptical of the possibility of a sovereign Palestinian state. But for many Palestinians, his likely successor as prime minister, Naftali Bennett, will not be an improvement. Bennett is Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and a former settler leader who openly opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state. Instead, many Palestinians are absorbed in their own political moment, which some activists have called the most decisive in decades. The Palestinian state has long been physically and politically splintered between the US-backed Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, its archenemy, the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian minority in Israel, whose votes can determine the success or failure of the Israeli government, and the vast diaspora. But in the aftermath of the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza last month, and the worst case of Arab-Jewish intercommunal violence to plague Israel in decades, these disparate parties have suddenly come together in a seemingly leaderless pursuit of a common identity and goal. In a rare sign of unity, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians held a rally on December 12. May a general strike in the Gaza Strip, in the West Bank, in the refugee camps in Lebanon and in Israel itself. I don’t think the person in charge in Israel will make much difference to the Palestinians, said Ahmad Aweida, former director of the Palestinian Stock Exchange. There may be minor differences and nuances, but all the major Israeli parties, with a few exceptions on the far left, share more or less the same ideology. The mid-May strike, Aweida said, showed that we are united despite what the Israelis have been trying to do for 73 years: divide us into Israeli Arabs, West Bank residents, Jerusalemites, Gaza residents, refugees and the diaspora. None of it worked, he said. We’re back to square one.

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