Moshe Gafni and Netanyahu
Moshe Gafni and NetanyahuYonatan Sindel/Flash90

With opposition lawmakers making progress towards forming a unity government, some haredi MKs are pressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step aside as prime minister for an extended period of time, in a bid to win over center-right parties.

MK Moshe Gafni, chairman of the United Torah Judaism faction and chief of the Knesset’s powerful Finance Committee, along with MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ), penned a letter to Netanyahu Sunday calling on him to pledge to step aside as prime minister for 18 months if a narrow right-wing government can be formed with 65 MKs.

Such a government would require both the Yamina and New Hope parties to join in order to secure a right-wing majority without the United Arab List.

In the arrangement pushed by Gafni and Eichler, the premiership would be shared in a rotational deal between Netanyahu and any MK able to secure the support of 65 right-wing lawmakers – a subtle reference to Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett. Netanyahu would step aside as premier for the first 18 months, and then rotate back in after a year and a half.

“As you know, over the past two years and four rounds of elections,” the two MKs wrote, “the haredi and religious factions backed the right-wing bloc led by the Likud, with the intention of forming a solidly right-wing government based on tradition and values, but unfortunately we weren’t successful.”

“Your request to keep on maintaining the Likud-religious-haredi bloc is fully understandable, so that we won’t help in establishing a center-left government.”

“That being said, we have no desire to go to a fifth election, which could end with a defeat for the right-wing and haredi parties. Therefore, we need to bring together the parties from the traditional bloc for a joint effort to establish a right-wing government and prevent the new elections.”