Bennett backs down from anti-Netanyahu gov’t as Jewish-Arab riots grow


Bennett caved to pressure from the Right and decided that he will not form a government with Mansour Abbas, citing the recent violence. GIL HOFFMAN

Head of the Yamina party Naftali Bennett gives a press conference at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on May 05, 2021.

(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett surrendered to pressure from the Right to not form a government with Ra’am (United Arab List) head Mansour Abbas on Thursday, telling Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid the idea was off the table.

Lapid, who has a mandate to form a government until June 2, called a 9 p.m. press conference to respond.

Bennett cited the recent spate of violence between Arabs and Jews in mixed cities.

“I am removing the change government from the agenda,” Bennett said. “A change government, with the makeup planned cannot deal with the problems in mixed cities. These are things that cannot be done when relying on Mansour Abbas.”

Bennett said he was working on forming what he called a wide unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz and Lapid. He said he opposed going to a fifth election in two and a half years.

Gantz did not respond, because he was in a military bunker, but his ministers all tweeted that they remain committed to a government of change.

Sources close to Bennett said he was pessimistic that such an agreement could be reached.

One idea raised by a source close to Bennett in a private conversation on Wednesday was a three-way rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office: First Bennett for a year and a half, then Netanyahu for two years and then six months for Sa’ar.

Earlier Thursday, Bennett’s number two in Yamina, MK Ayelet Shaked, called for bringing the IDF into mixed cities to restore order. Bennett endorsed the idea, knowing that it would prevent a coalition with Ra’am.

Abbas said in an interview with Army Radio on Thursday morning that the violence in the mixed cities should not end chances of forming a coalition that has the support of Jewish and Arab MKs. He told interviewers Udi Segal and Keren Marciano that he stopped coalition talks, because they would be inappropriate in such a sensitive time. But he said they would be restarted immediately after the escalation ends.

“I am not giving up on future cooperation,” Abbas said. “It could be that these incidents emphasize the need for true partnership with understanding, initiating together.”

Abbas went further, saying that a partnership of Jews and Arabs was “a goal in itself” and not merely “an instrument to something else.” The Ra’am leader said “protests are legitimate” but must be done within the law and without harming anyone.

In an interview with Channel 12, Abbas said he would not rule out supporting direct elections for prime minister. Bennett backs down from anti-Netanyahu gov’t as Jewish-Arab riots grow



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