Israel's new coalition says 'let go' as Benjamin Netanyahu cries fraud

Nationalist Naftali Bennett tells the long-time prime minister to leave quietly

Naftali Bennett called on Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to leave ‘scorched earth’ behind at the end of his tenure. EPA
Naftali Bennett called on Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to leave ‘scorched earth’ behind at the end of his tenure. EPA

The newly formed coalition to oust the Israeli Prime Minister traded barbs with Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.

Naftali Bennett, leader of the nationalist Yamina party and one-time ally of the prime minister called on Mr Netanyahu to "let go and allow Israel to move forward," in comments broadcast from his Twitter account.

Referring to Likud's ongoing campaign to lure his party's members away from the coalition before a parliamentary vote to secure power, Mr Bennett said "a violent machine is working against Yamina lawmakers."

Members of the new "change" coalition, made up of a wide range of political persuasions, urged Knesset speaker Yariv Levin to allow a speedy confirmation vote after the body convenes on Monday. The heads of the eight parties who make up the coalition met for the first time since the announcement of their deal on Sunday.

"We know that Netanyahu is pressuring you to delay the vote, to postpone, to withdraw, in order to give more time to the hunt for defectors," Mr Bennett said at the Knesset.

"This may be for Netanyahu’s good, but... it’s not good for the state."

Opposition leader Yair Lapid announced the coalition last Wednesday after the March 23 election named no clear winner.

Under a rotation deal, Mr Bennett, whose party has called for Israel to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, will serve first as prime minister, followed by centrist Mr Lapid.

Meanwhile, Mr Netanyahu decried what he called the "greatest election fraud in the history of the country, in my opinion in the history of any democracy," to members of his Likud party.

"That's why people justifiably feel deceived and they are responding, they must not be shut up," he said in the remarks, which were broadcast live and referred indirectly to Mr Bennett's campaign promise not to team up with Lapid and others.

The trading of verbal barbs and parties encouraging supporters to demonstrate has led to some Yamina members being assigned a security detail, Haaretz reported.

"We have recently identified a rise in increasingly extreme violent and inciteful discourse particularly on social networks," Nadav Argaman, head of the Shin Bet security force, said in a statement without mentioning any names.

"This discourse may be interpreted among certain groups or individuals, as one that permits violent and illegal activity that may even cause physical harm," he said, later calling for political and religious leaders to tone down discourse.

A poll by Israel's N12 Television's Meet the Press on Saturday showed that 46 per cent of Israelis support the Bennett-Lapid government, 38 per cent would prefer a fifth election in two years and 15 per cent did not state a preference.

Updated: June 7, 2021 08:56 AM

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