'It all depends on Abbas' say members of 'bloc for change'

Despite the violence, Lapid and his supporters continue efforts to build 'unity government' - even with the United Arab List.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Yamina head MK Naftali Bennett (r.) with MK Mansour Abbas, UAL head
Yamina head MK Naftali Bennett (r.) with MK Mansour Abbas, UAL head

Politics have taken a back seat to national defense following this week’s sharp deterioration in the security situation, but negotiations toward the formation of a coalition have not ceased altogether.

Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid, head of the center-left Yesh Atid party, currently holds the mandate and has another few weeks to succeed in cobbling together a government comprised of at least seven parties, with diverse electoral bases and demands. According to the Israel Hayom newspaper, talks are still underway within the so-called “bloc for change” this week, although the parties’ official negotiating teams have not actually met in recent days.

“Everything now depends on Abbas,” said a senior official involved in the negotiations, referring to United Arab List head MK Mansour Abbas, head of a four-seat faction and possible kingmaker. “And we don’t know what’s going on with him just yet. According to [Yamina party head MK Naftali] Bennett, we can’t go full-steam ahead until we know what’s happening with him. As for Lapid, he thinks that we do need to keep going and finalize everything even at this stage. They are relying on the fact that things in Israel tend to happen at a dizzying pace, and that on the day after the war, everything will snap back to normal and we’ll be able to pick up where we left off.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a report on Galei Tzahal claimed that despite the security situation, MK Gideon Sa’ar, head of the New Hope party and part of the bloc for change, met with President Rivlin in order to update him on the progress of negotiations. Sa’ar’s team authorized the publication of the news of their meeting, and added that his conversation with the President “dealt with various issues touching on recent developments, including security goals for restoring calm both within the country and without.”

Yair Lapid has also maintained his contacts with the President, according to those in his inner circle. Lapid and Rivlin have discussed the security situation as well as developments in the political arena, with Lapid stressing that his efforts to build a coalition have continued despite the ongoing violence.

Parallel to the talks between members of the bloc for change, elements from the Likud and Religious Zionism parties have continued to exert pressure on the Yamina party and its head, Naftali Bennett, in an attempt to persuade them to refrain from joining with center and leftist parties to form a government.

Writing on Twitter, Religious Zionism head MK Bezalel Smotrich stated, “It’s simply astonishing. Bennett isn’t just refusing to take off the agenda the idea of establishing a government together with supporters of terrorism – people such as those we see rioting today and attacking Jews in Lod, Ramle, the Galilee, and the Negev – he’s actually, even now, continuing to maintain contacts with them, even intensive ones, still with a plan to form a government. Bennett and [fellow Yamina MK Ayelet] Shaked are continuing on their path of an incomprehensible abandonment of all sense of values.”

Right-wing activists have, in recent days, been holding protests outside the homes of Yamina MKs, including that of MK Nir Orbach, where senior National-Religious Rabbi Haim Druckman arrived yesterday, with the demand that Orbach announce that he is opposed to the establishment of a left-wing government headed by the Yamina party.

Bennett, outwardly at least, remains uncowed, writing: “The Likud, which was once a governing party, has become a party that has failed in its leadership of the country and through its recklessness, is leading us from failure to disaster.”

Nonetheless, he clarified that, “Yamina will give its full support to the government of Netanyahu and Gantz and to any steps that they take toward restoring our security – without any thought of making political capital from the situation.”

For his part, Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter that, “We need to take a deep breath and calm things down … but at the same time, we need to continue our efforts toward making progress in forming an Israeli unity government.”