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Netanyahu. Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid has notified President Reuven Rivlin that he managed to form a power-sharing government that will oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if it survives a confidence vote in the Knesset.

Why it matters: We are on the verge of a seismic event in Israeli politics, with Israel's longest-serving prime minister and the man who has dominated the country's politics and relations with the world for over a decade on the verge of being replaced. But he's not out quite yet.

Driving the news: Right-winger Naftali Bennett would serve first as prime minister for two years with the centrist Lapid then rotating into the job.

  • The announcement was made possible by the unprecedented decision of the Islamist Ra'am party — which would be the first Arab party to enter an Israeli government — to unite with Bennett and Lapid.
  • With Ra'am as well as the right-wing “New Hope” party, which also signed a coalition agreement, Lapid and Bennett currently have 61 members of the Knesset — the exact number needed for a majority.

Yes, but: Some of the coalition agreements are not yet final. They'll have to be presented to the Knesset before a vote is held on the government within 12 days.

  • In the interim, Netanyahu is expected to try to sabotage the new coalition and press several of its right-wing members to defect.
  • The latest: Lapid sent a letter to Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin — a Netanyahu crony — asking him to convene the Knesset as soon as possible in order to vote on the new government. Levin can stall the vote for at least a week

Under pressure from Netanyahu and his supporters, one member of Bennett’s party announced three weeks ago that he would vote against the government.

  • In recent hours, another member of Bennett’s party also said he was considering following suit — which would forced Lapid and Bennett to get at least one member of the Arab Joint List to vote in favor of the government or abstain.

Between the lines: Bennett, a tech entrepreneur and former Netanyahu protege, would become prime minister despite only winning seven seats in the election.

  • He was able to play the kingmaker role in the scramble to form a government, with both Netanyahu and Lapid needing his support.
  • While he is a conservative, particularly on Israel-Palestine issues, he will be constrained by the broad range of parties in the coalition and the fact that Lapid will have a veto on his policies.

What to watch: The last-minute snags in the negotiations over the past few days sent a clear signal of how fragile the government will be if it's formed and how much pressure Netanyahu and his supporters will be able to exert on its right-wing members.

  • Netanyahu, who is currently on trial for corruption, would be expected to become opposition leader.

Go deeper

Jun 2, 2021 - World

Netanyahu's rivals have just hours left to seal pact to replace him

Naftali Bennett (left) today with Yair Lapid. Photo: Ronen Zvulun/POOL/AFP via Getty

With opposition leader Yair Lapid's mandate to form a new government set to expire at midnight (5pm ET), negotiations are down to the wire with no deal yet.

Why it matters: If Lapid and Naftali Bennett can finalize their deal today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be out of power for the first time in 12 years. If they can't, Israel will likely head for a fifth election since 2019 with Netanyahu still in office.

Jun 1, 2021 - World

Israel will risk tensions with Biden to block Iran, Netanyahu says

Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday at a ceremony for the new director of Israel's Mossad spy agency that Israel must prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon even at the cost of tensions with the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The U.S. is holding indirect talks with Iran on a mutual return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Netanyahu, who may be in his final days as prime minister, is a fierce critic of the deal and contends a U.S. return would take the pressure off the Iranian regime.

Jun 2, 2021 - World

Isaac Herzog elected as Israel's 11th president

Isaac Herzog (center left) with Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau (center right) at the 31st annual International March of the Living in 2019. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Isaac Herzog was elected on Wednesay as the 11th president of Israel, winning more than two-thirds of the votes in Israel's parliament, the Knesset.

Why it matters: The president of Israel gives would-be prime ministers the mandate to form a new government, highly important during the ongoing political crisis in Israel, and can also offer pardons — which could become relevant with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on trial for corruption.

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