In Brief: Bibi-Bennett coalition talks continue

Benjamin Netanyahu met with Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina party, for the fourth time on Wednesday after being asked to form a government by President Reuven Rivlin last week.

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem hosted coalition negotiations between Likud and Yamina, who have also been meeting separately. Talks between Netanyahu and Bennett were described as “positive”, but agreement has not yet been reached.

Netanyahu appears to be aiming to reach agreements with Yamina, Shas and United Torah Judaism, and then to apply pressure on Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionist Party, who has consistently refused to join any government supported by the Islamist Ra’am party – a likely necessity for Netanyahu to secure a majority.

Efforts to win over defectors from other parties, such as Blue and White, have thus far proven unsuccessful. Alternative speculation around New Hope, led by Gideon Sa’ar, has similarly been fruitless.
Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government will expire on 4 May. If he is unsuccessful, it is expected that Bennett and opposition leader Yair Lapid may attempt to broker some form of rotation agreement by which they would share the premiership.