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Israel opposition head calls for unity government

AFP logo AFP 4/18/2021 AFP
Yair Lapid sitting at a desk in front of a computer: Chairman of Israel's Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid © Alex Kolomoisky Chairman of Israel's Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid called Sunday for a "unity government", as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flounders in efforts to form a coalition.

Netanyahu's Likud party emerged from March 23 polls with 30 seats, making it the largest in Israel's 120-member parliament.

With the support of allies, the veteran premier has been trying to form a new coalition to stay in power.

But in the absence of concrete progress, Lapid, the centrist Yesh Atid party leader, called for a government that would "restore trust between the public and its leaders".

"We have to form a government that will unite us," he told a news conference. 

"Not a right-wing government, not a left-wing government but an Israeli unity government," he said, stressing the need to avoid yet another general election. 


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Israel has held four elections since April 2019, with Netanyahu emerging ahead in each but failing to form a stable coalition.

No other political leader has provided an alternative. 

Lapid proposed a unity team of "three right-wing parties, two centrist parties and two left-wing parties", but that would still fall three short of the 61-seat majority.

"We are doing everything" to form a "unity government" that would be "stable and caring", he said.

Netanyahu would need the seven seats of Yamina led by Naftali Bennett, his estranged former protege, in addition to ultra-Orthodox parties and far-right Religious Zionism, to form a coalition.

The premier would also require backing from the Islamic conservative Raam party, whose leader, Mansour Abbas, has not ruled out supporting a Netanyahu-led coalition.

But Bezalel Smotrich, who heads Religious Zionism, on Sunday reiterated he would not join a government with Raam.

"You don't form a government with the support of those whose goal was and remains the destruction of the Zionist project," he wrote in a tweet.

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