Hindustan Times (Lucknow)
Israel politics set for new dawn
Country picks a new president before Netanyahu’s rivals come up with a stable coalition to form govt
JERUSALEM: Israeli politicians scrambling to unseat veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were locked in last-ditch talks on Wednesday to hammer out their coalition composed of bitter ideological rivals.
As a midnight deadline approached, negotiations hit an impasse, with one source telling AFP that the multi-party talks in a hotel near Tel Aviv were “stuck” and questioning whether a viable alliance would be agreed in time.
Netanyahu’s opponents had until the end of the day to cobble together an administration that would end 12 straight years of rule by the political heavyweight, Israel’s longest-ruling PM.
The high-stakes push for a new government is led by former
TV presenter Yair Lapid, who three days earlier won the crucial support of hardline nationalist Naftali Bennett.
Lapid has reportedly agreed to allow Bennett, a 49-year-old tech millionaire, to serve first as prime minister before swapping with him after two years, halfway through their term.
To reach a majority in the 120seat Knesset, the unlikely alliance needed to include several other left and right-wing parties - and needed the support of Arab-Israeli politicians. That would result in a government riven by deep differences on flashpoint issues, such as Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
In the event of no agreement, Israel risked heading back to the polls for a fifth general election in just over two years.
With negotiations down to the wire, a bone of contention was the composition of Israel’s committee to appoint judges, while another hurdle was reaching a deal with Islamic conservative lawmakers. Lapid is counting on backing from parties representing Arab Israelis, the country’s 20% minority of Palestinian descent. Earlier on Wednesday, Israel’s parliament elected former politician Isaac Herzog as the country’s president, a role that is largely ceremonial but meant to promote unity among ethnic and religious groups.
Herzog beat rival candidate Miriam Peretz, an educator and mother of two Israeli infantry officers killed in battle, by a vote of 87 lawmakers to 26.
He will assume the presidency next month, replacing Reuven Rivlin, who is ending his sevenyear term.