| 21 February 2024, Wednesday |

Benjamin Netanyahu calls on Knesset members to oppose ‘dangerous’ new Israel government

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fought back on Thursday against an agreement by his political opponents to unseat him, calling the new coalition government “dangerous”.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid said late on Wednesday that he has managed to form a broad-based coalition to unseat Mr Netanyahu and end the reign of the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history.

Mr Netanyahu responded on Twitter that “all legislators elected by votes from the right must oppose this dangerous left-wing government”.

As the Lapid-Bennett coalition was coming together in recent days, Mr Netanyahu and his supporters ramped up a pressure campaign against former hawkish allies, including right-wing nationalist tech millionaire Naftali Bennett and his closest ally the Yamina party, Ayelet Shaked.

Mr Netanyahu accused them of betraying right-wing values. His supporters launched vicious social media campaigns and staged noisy protests outside Mr Shaked’s home.

The prime minister’s Likud party also advertised a demonstration on Thursday night outside the home of Yamina lawmaker Nir Orbach, urging him to quit the coalition.

That’s a taste of the pressure to be expected for lawmakers on the right, while some on the left now have time to think about whether they will pay for this partnership in the next election.

“There will be a lot of pressure, especially on right-wingers, especially for religious right-wingers,” Gideon Rahat, a political-science professor at Hebrew University, told the Associated Press.

“They will go to the synagogue and people will pressure them. It will be a nightmare for some of them.”

Mr Netanyahu and his supporters called a meeting later on Thursday to discuss their next steps.

Should last-minute defections scupper the “change” alliance, Israel would likely have to hold yet another election, the fifth in bout two years.

“I succeeded,” Mr Lapid, a former TV news anchor, wrote on Facebook. “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.”

Mr Bennett would serve first as prime minister in a rotation agreement, with Mr Lapid to take over after two years.

“With the help of God, we will do together what is good for Israel and we’ll get Israel back on track,” Mr Bennett told Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin after Mr Lapid informed Mr Rivlin of their coalition.

Mr Lapid was tasked with forming a government after Mr Netanyahu failed to put together his own coalition following March elections, the fourth inconclusive vote in less than two years.

Mr Netanyahu has become a divisive figure in Israeli politics over his tenure and is currently facing criminal charges.

Three parties in the last election were led by former top aides who fell out with him.

To build the anti-Netanyahu bloc, Mr Lapid had to sign individual agreements with seven parties.