Netanyahu set to offer Bennett, Sa’ar PM rotation on Tuesday


Netanyahu has offered a rotation as prime minister to Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud), Shas leader Arye Deri and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, but none of the offers were taken seriously. GIL HOFFMAN

Gideon Sa’ar, Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett: Potential candidates for prime minister in 2021.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will offer Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar the opportunity to go first in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office as early as Tuesday night, after the Likud Central Committee meets to approve a future merger with their parties, Likud sources told The Jerusalem Post Monday.

Netanyahu will not reveal a preference between Bennett or Sa’ar, neither of whom he likes personally. He will call upon them to decide themselves who would receive the premiership. The deal would be contingent on both of them bringing their parties with them and enabling the formation of a government by the May 4 deadline, according to the sources.

In recent days, Netanyahu has offered a rotation as prime minister to Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud), Shas leader Arye Deri and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz.

None of the offers were taken seriously. They were seen as trial balloons that were intended to soften the blow when the prime minister would make his real overture to Bennett and Sa’ar and to justify his invitations to them, being that their factions are smaller than those of Deri and Gantz.

The offer from Netanyahu could be used by Bennett and Sa’ar to obtain more leverage in their negotiations with opposition leader Yair Lapid to form a coalition of change.

Yamina would be willing to join any right-wing government even if it is not led by Netanyahu, Bennett told his faction on Monday at the Knesset. He called on both political camps to compromise and display responsibility.

“Our preference is a right-wing government,” Bennett said. “Yamina would join any right-wing government formed by Netanyahu or led by another figure on the Right who has the ability to lead the government, whether they are from Likud or elsewhere.”

Bennett said his second option was a national-unity government, which he continues to negotiate with Lapid and other party leaders.

“The gaps are not small,” he said. “Unity is never easy because there are very different worldviews. It requires a lot  of restraint. I can’t guarantee the efforts will bear fruit. But we’ll leave no stone unturned to prevent elections.”

Bennett said two issues in which there were still wide gaps are settlements and the legal system. Portfolios, the Right-Left balance and matters of religion and state were no longer serious problems in the negotiations, a source close to him said.

Sa’ar also told his faction on Monday there were difficulties in negotiations aimed at forming a government without Netanyahu.

“I am unable to say if such a government will be formed, but it is important to maximize this effort,” he said. “We will not join at any price and without conditions.”

Sa’ar declined to take questions at his faction meeting about whether his party could join a government with a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office in which Netanyahu does not go first.

Sa’ar had ruled out such a possibility because even as alternate prime minister, Netanyahu would retain his strong influence over the government’s decisions, Army Radio reported Monday morning.

Sa’ar agreed to speak only generally about his party’s options.

“There are two possibilities,” he told his faction. “There can be a right-wing government led by someone else [other than Netanyahu] or a unity government based on arrangements that will enable us to defend our values and our worldview.”

Sa’ar called for making every effort to build a government of change and avoid elections.

By contrast, Lapid told his faction an agreement between the parties could be completed within a week.

“In the days ahead, tough decisions will have to be made,” he said. “If everyone displays responsibility, it is possible to finalize everything within a week to 10 days.”

Asked if he was worried that Bennett and Sa’ar would abandon him at the last minute, Lapid said: “I hope they do the right thing for Israel. They are patriots, and they will do what is right for Israel.”

Lapid said he did not know whether he should be offended that Netanyahu had not offered him a rotation as prime minister.

Labor leader Merav Michaeli said Netanyahu could call upon right-wing party leaders to enter the government “to deal with a security situation that he purposely started.”

Bennett should help remove Netanyahu from office, she said.

Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev has said Michaeli is fit to be foreign minister.

Asked if she would feel comfortable explaining the policies of Bennett if he would be prime minister, Michaeli said the government formed would not be right-wing, and her party would feel comfortable joining and explaining its policies.

“I believe I can explain it as long as we replace Netanyahu,” she said.


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