Lapid Meets Joint List Leaders in Effort to Stave Off Netanyahu Gov’t

Yesh Atid leader, MK Yair Lapid met with the Joint List’s leader MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) and senior list MK Ahmad Tibi (Ta’al) at a Tel Aviv hotel on Thursday, April 1, towards President Reuven Rivlin’s consultations next week with Knesset parties on who should be tasked first with forming the next government.

The meeting came amidst continued political deadlock following last the March 23 election, which saw neither Netanyahu’s allies nor his rivals muster enough seats to form a coalition. The anti-Netanyahu bloc, a patchwork of Zionist left, right and centrist factions, is also just shy of a majority.

Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, faces a bloc of 57 lawmakers, led by the centrist Yesh Atid party, who are seeking to end his unprecedented 12 consecutive years in power. The Islamist United Arab List party (Ra’am), headed by MK Mansour Abbas and MK Naftali Bennett’s far-right Yamina have still not yet declared their support for either bloc.

Joint List's Ayman Odeh (Hadash) and Ahmad Tibi (Ta'al)after their meeting with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in Tel Aviv, April 1, 2021

Joint List’s Ayman Odeh (Hadash) and Ahmad Tibi (Ta’al)after their meeting with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in Tel Aviv, April 1, 2021 (Screenshot: Al-Ittihad)

“Our goal is to prevent a Netanyahu-Smotrich-Ben Gvir government, and we agreed on that,” Odeh says in a video released by the Joint List on Facebook. However, the Joint List leaders repeated in their meeting with Lapid that they will not consider recommending him to form the next government unless he first receives 55 recommendations from other MKs. “First of all, Lapid must reach 55 recommendations. If he reaches that number, we are prepared to examine the matter from all angles, considering all issues, from the dominant national cause to topics which matter to Arab citizens,” Odeh said in the video.

As key issues in the meeting with Lapid, Odeh stressed changing the racist “Nation-State Law” and the 2017 Kamenitz law targeting unauthorized Arab construction, fighting violence and organized crime, and budgets for Arab municipalities. Tibi added the priorities of improving urban planning and reducing unemployment among Arabs. MK Sami Abu Shehadeh, the head of Balad, the third party in the Joint List, did not attend Thursday’s meeting with Lapid. His party has already said it plans to recommend no one, and is calling on Hadash and Ta’al to do likewise.

President Rivlin will hold two days of consultations with the Knesset parties beginning Monday, April 5, to assist his determining on whom to give the first chance to form the next government. He will task one of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers with doing so by April 7. The leading candidates are Netanyahu, Lapid, Naftali Bennet, Gideon Saar, and Benny Gantz. Saturday evening, April 3, the leaders of Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel, will convene to set their position on this question.

In his first public speech since the March 23 election, on Wednesday evening, March 31, Netanyahu called on Israel’s far-right-wing parties, to join him in forming a governing coalition. The vote, Israel’s fourth in two years, delivered the veteran premier’s Likud 30 seats in the 120-seat parliament, making it the largest party — but a majority of 61 is required to form a government.