Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents have announced they have reached a deal to form a new governing coalition, paving the way for the removal of Netanyahu, who has been Israel’s longest serving leader.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid and his main coalition partner, Naftali Bennett, announced they had reached an announcement shortly before a Wednesday, June 2 midnight deadline and prevented what could have been Israel’s fifth consecutive election in just over two years.
“This government will work for all the citizens of Israel, those that voted for it and those that didn’t. It will do everything to unite Israeli society,” Lapid said.
The agreement still needs to be approved by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) in a vote that is expected to take place early next week.
If it goes through, Lapid and his coalition partner will end Netanyahu’s record-setting12-year rule.
Netanyahu, desperate to remain in office while he fights corruption charges, is expected to do everything possible in the coming days to prevent the new coalition from taking power.
The deal comes at a political time for Israel, which fought an 11-day war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip last month while also experiencing mob violence between Jews and Arabs in cities across Israel.
Under the coalition agreement, Lapid and Bennett will split the job of prime minister i.e rotate the prime minister roles between two consecutive terms.
Bennett, a former ally of Netanyahu, is to serve the first two years, while Lapid is to serve the final two years.
The historic deal also includes a small Islamist party, the United Arab List, which would make it the first Arab party ever to be part of a governing coalition.
“This is the first time an Arab party is a partner in the formation of a government,” said the party’s leader, Mansour Abbas. “This agreement has a lot of things for the benefit of Arab society, and Israeli society in general.”
Among the concessions secured by Abbas were agreements for legal recognition of Bedouin villages in southern Israel, an economic plan for investing 30 billion shekels ($9.2 billion) in Arab towns and cities, and a five-year plan for combating violent crime in Arab communities, according to Army Radio.
Netanyahu in a show of power, is attempting to put pressure on hard-liners in the emerging coalition to defect and join his religious and nationalist party.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, may also use his influence to delay the required parliamentary vote.
Netanyahu has been top of Israeli politics over the past three decades, first serving as prime minister since 2009 in addition to an earlier term in the late 1990s.
His major achievements include last year’s groundbreaking diplomatic agreements with four Arab countries and the defence of Israel from Hamas and Iran.