06:18 GMT17 June 2021
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    On Wednesday, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid and his main coalition counterpart, Naftali Bennett, said they had reached an agreement to form a coalition government and gain the majority in the 120-member Knesset. The move is expected to end the 12-year rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Yamina alliance leader Naftali Bennett, set to become the Israeli prime minister if the freshly-formed block is confirmed by Knesset, urged the Knesset speaker on Sunday to summon a vote for the new government and called on Netanyahu not to let go of power, saying that the reshuffle is not a “catastrophe, it’s not a disaster, [it’s] a change of government: a normal and obvious event in any democratic country.”

    The statement came as leaders of eight parties of the expected new government met on Sunday for the first time since the day the coalition was announced. The meeting included Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid; along with Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz; Yisrael Beytenu, led by Avigdor Lieberman; New Hope, led by Gideon Saar; Labour, led by Marav Michaeli; Meretz, led by Nitzan Horowitz, and the United Arab List, led by Mansour Abbas.

    “Israel’s regime is not monarchic. No one has a monopoly over power. Naturally, any regime that atrophies and degenerates after many years is replaced,” Bennett stated at a press conference.

    He criticized the pressure placed by Netanyahu’s allies on coalition members to poach them, asking the current prime minister to “let go.”

    “Let the country move forward. People are allowed to vote for a government even if you do not lead it — a government that, by the way, is 10 degrees to the right of the current one,” he said, referring to earlier Netanyahu claims that the "dangerous left-wing government" pose a threat to Israel.

    “Don’t leave scorched earth in your wake. We want to remember the good, the great deal of good you did during your service, and not, God forbid, a negative atmosphere you would leave upon your departure,” Bennett asserted.

    His remarks were preceded by Netanyahu’s claims that Bennett would accede to US pressure and allow the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Iranian nuclear deal to be reconstructed. The prime minister, a fierce opponent of the deal, described it as an “existential threat posed by Iran's attempts to arm itself with nuclear weapons.”

    The message was part of Netanyahu’s efforts to shatter the coalition’s tiny majority, currently consisting of 61 members. Earlier he blasted rightwing members of coalition, calling them to withdraw it. On Friday, he posted on Facebook a Bible story, taking a shot at his political rivals on the right while comparing them to the religious fable of Moses’ spies who were punished by God for treason and died in a plague.

    The campaign of the prime minister’s party, Likud, resulted in unrest and threats towards right politicians, including Bennett, prompting law enforcement to increase security measures.

    United Arab List party leader Mansour Abbas, Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, sit together in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, Israel June 2, 2021. Picture taken June 2, 2021
    © REUTERS / UNITED ARAB LIST
    United Arab List party leader Mansour Abbas, Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, sit together in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, Israel June 2, 2021. Picture taken June 2, 2021

    On 2 June, the Israeli opposition informed the country’s president, Reuven Rivlin, that it had succeeded in forming a coalition government without Netanyahu. The government would consist of the country's largest opposition party, Yesh Atid, along with other factions, including Yamina, Yesh Atid and Hew Hope.

    Israel has carried out four snap elections since April 2019, following unsuccessful attempts to form a government. The latest election was held in March of this year, and Netanyahu, mandated to form a government, failed to do so, prompting Rivlin to hand the mandate to opposition leader Lapid.

    Netanyahu's uninterrupted 12 years in office have been marked for the last few years with political crisis. The turmoil was fueled by the prime minister's involvement in corruption scandals, as multiple charges were officially brought against him, including for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, that could result in a 10-year sentence.

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    Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, Naftali Bennett, Likud
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