A key Israeli opposition party has backed a unity government that would bring to an end Benjamin Netanyahu’s time as the country’s longest serving prime minister.
The ultra-nationalist leader Naftali Bennett said his party would join talks to form a governing coalition with centrist party leader Yair Lapid.
Mr Lapid has until Wednesday to announce the result of his efforts. Mr Netanyahu, meanwhile, said the proposed deal would “weaken Israel”.
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The prime minister, who is on trial for fraud, fell short of a decisive majority at a general election in March. It was the country’s fourth inconclusive vote in two years – and again Mr Netanyahu failed to secure coalition allies.
Mr Bennett, 49, who leads the Yamina party, made his announcement in a televised address.
“Mr Netanyahu is no longer trying to form a right-wing government because he knows full well that there isn’t one. He is seeking to take the whole national camp, and the whole country, with him on his personal last stand,” he said.
“I will do everything to form a national unity government with my friend Yair Lapid.”
Before the announcement, Israeli media reported that under the proposed terms of the deal, Mr Bennett would replace Mr Netanyahu, 71, as prime minister and later give way to Mr Lapid, 57, in a rotation agreement. The arrangement has not been officially confirmed.
The proposed coalition would bring together factions from the right, the left and the centre of Israeli politics. While the parties have little in common politically, they are united in their desire to see Mr Netanyahu’s time in office come to an end.
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Speaking shortly after Mr Bennett’s announcement, the prime minister accused Mr Bennett of carrying out “the fraud of the century” – a reference to the Yamina leader’s previous public promises not to join forces with Lapid.
Mr Netanyahu said Mr Bennett’s approach would be “a danger for the security of Israel”. He did not elaborate.