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Netanyahu’s party loses last-minute bid to stop rivals forming new Israeli government

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has rejected a challenge from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party over the legality of a rival right-wing party’s attempt to form a new government after years of political stalemate.

Naftali Bennett, who leads the New Right party, announced on Sunday that he supports the efforts of Yesh Atid’s leader Yair Lapid to form a unity government to ensure the removal of Netanyahu from office. New Right’s support was secured by an agreement that Bennett would serve as the country’s leader under a rotation deal and would later hand the premiership to Lapid.

Netanyahu’s Likud party responded to New Right’s statement by submitting letters to the legal counsels of the country’s president and parliament claiming Lapid does not have the authority to hand the leadership to Bennett. Rivlin swiftly rejected Likud’s claim, stating that Lapid would be able to be appointed as an “alternative prime minister,” allowing both the leaders of New Right and Yesh Atid to serve as prime minister in rotation.

The Israeli president did, however, agree with Likud that, in order to form the new government, Lapid and New Right have to provide Rivlin with a formal agreement outlining the full details of the new government by midnight (local time) on Wednesday.

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While it is not yet clear who else is participating in the newly proposed government coalition, it is expected to be a grouping of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties, including Israel’s Arab minority. 

Israel has held four elections since April 2019, after Netanyahu’s coalition fell apart due to disagreements over concerns about his impending corruption trial. Despite Likud securing the most seats in three out of four of those contests, Netanyahu has failed each time to form a new coalition and no party has managed to secure enough support to remove him from power.

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