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Netanyahu Opponents Seek Quick End to Israeli PM's Time in Office


FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a briefing at Hakirya military base in Tel Aviv, May 19, 2021.

Opponents of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked Thursday to arrange a quick parliamentary vote to end his 12-year term in office.

Netanyahu’s opponents hope an expedited vote would complicate his last-minute effort to disrupt their new coalition.

The political maneuvering began after an ideologically broad group of Israeli political parties struck a fragile deal late Wednesday that could unseat the longtime prime minister.

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As his opponents were working to form the coalition in recent days, Netanyahu and his allies intensified a pressure campaign against former supporters that include Yamina party head Naftali Bennett and deputy leader Ayelet Shaked.

Netanyahu is facing multiple corruption charges and is expected to do everything possible to remain in office.

Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid said late Wednesday, less than an hour before a midnight deadline, that he had secured the support of the majority of the Knesset.

“I promise that this government will work in the service of all of the citizens of Israel, those who voted for it and those who did not,” Lapid posted on Facebook.

Bennett, who leads the hardline nationalist Yamina party, announced his support for Lapid’s coalition on Sunday.

The agreement between the two would see Bennett serve the first two years as prime minister before Lapid rotates into the role.

President Reuven Rivlin gave Lapid the opportunity to bring together a coalition of parties that could amass a majority in the 120-seat Knesset after Netanyahu failed to do so in early May.

“Congratulations to you @yairlapid and to the heads of the parties on your agreement to form a government,” Rivlin tweeted. “We expect the Knesset will convene as soon as possible to ratify the government, as required.”

The Knesset is required to take a vote of confidence in the new government, a procedure that cannot be approved until the next plenum session, which is scheduled for Monday.

Once approved Knesset speaker, Likud’s Yariv Levin then has up to seven days to schedule the vote. But Levin, a Netanyahu ally, could leverage his position to delay the vote and grant Netanyahu more time to weaken the coalition.

But as it stands, Lapid’s coalition has a thin majority in the Knesset. The government would be sworn in 10 days from Wednesday — enough time for Netanyahu’s camp to potentially bring lawmakers to their side and vote against it. In arguing against the coalition in recent days, Netanyahu said it would be a danger to Israel’s security.

In addition to Yesh Atid and Yamina, the eight-party coalition includes the centrist Blue and White party of Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the left-wing Labour and Meretz parties, the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, right-wing New Hope party and the United Arab List.

The coalition is the first in Israel’s history to have a party that represents Israel’s Arab minority.

Israel has been in a period of political turmoil for two years, during which the country has held four elections.

After two 2019 elections, Netanyahu failed to form a coalition but stayed on as caretaker prime minister. A year ago, he formed a coalition government with rival Gantz, but that fell apart in December as parliament failed to pass a budget.

The 71-year-old Netanyahu has been prime minister since 2009 after holding the same office for three years in the 1990s. He is on trial facing criminal corruption charges but has denied any wrongdoing.