Netanyahu Rivals Face Midnight Deadline to Oust Israeli Premier



Rivals of Benjamin Netanyahu are up against a midnight Wednesday deadline to lock down a new government that would unseat Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

The camp led by the centrist Yair Lapid and the Jewish nationalist Naftali Bennett appeared to edge closer to its goal after two additional parties lined up on Tuesday behind the emerging coalition, including the United Arab List. Lapid, who was handed the mandate to form Israel’s next government last month after Netanyahu failed, is scrambling to finalize agreements with additional partners to approach a parliamentary majority.

The rival bloc is made up of a factions with wildly different political views that have united in the effort to end Netanyahu’s 12-year run in power. The prime minister has been railing against the tie-up, claiming that the inclusion of left-wing and Arab parties presents a danger to the country, which has just come off an 11-day conflict with Hamas militants in Gaza and faces what he characterizes as an existential threat from Iran’s nuclear program.

One of the remaining sticking points that his opponents need to overcome is a disagreement between Bennett’s Yamina party and one of the left-wing groups over the makeup of a committee to appoint judges, Israeli media reported. Yamina seeks to curb the powers of judges to overturn laws.

The Bennett-Lapid bloc need a plurality of parliament’s 120 members to vote in favor of their government, otherwise their efforts collapse and Israel likely heads to a fifth election in 2 1/2 years. As things stand, they have locked up the support of 51 lawmakers and ultimately plan to rely on the backing of 61, the slimmest parliamentary majority.

Israel’s political turmoil is rooted in Netanyahu’s corruption trial, which has divided the country and resulted in four rounds of inconclusive balloting. The prime minister maintains that he did nothing wrong.