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Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett. Photo: GALI TIBBON/AFP via Getty Images

The leader of Israel's right wing Yamina party, Naftali Bennett, said in a speech Sunday he'll do everything in his power to form a unity government with opposition leader Yair Lapid “to get the country back on the right track."

Why it matters: A new "change government" could end the political crisis that has led to four elections in Israel in two years. It would make Bennett prime minister, bringing an end to 12 years of Benjamin Netanyahu's rule.

What he's saying: Bennett, who called Lapid his “friend”, in the speech accused Netanyahu of lying when he says he can form a right wing government with 61 members of the legislature.

  • He added that the alternative to a unity government was a fifth election, which he said would lead to a sixth and seventh election. “This will tear apart our country brick by brick until our house collapses on us”, Bennett said.
  • “Mr. Netanyahu is not trying to form a right wing government. He knows it's impossible. He wants to take the country to his own personal Masada,” Bennett said. He said Netanyahu was operating a “well-oiled machine that is spreading lies to sow fear in the public.”
  • Bennett stressed the new unity government will not be left-wing, and that it wouldn't give up territories or hesitate to go on a military operation if one is needed.
  • “The left wing part of the government made big compromises … each side of the government will have a veto power and equal number of votes”, Bennett said.

The other side: Netanyahu gave a statement shortly after Bennett’s speech, calling him a liar and “the con artist of the century.” He called on right wing voters to put pressure on the members of Knesset from Bennett’s party so that they don't vote in favor of the new government.

Worth noting: Under a “change government,” Bennett would serve as prime minister for two years before Lapid rotates into the job. It would be the most wide-ranging coalition ever formed in Israel.

What’s next: Bennett’s and Lapid’s negotiations teams convened right after the speech. Lapid and Bennett were already on the verge of a deal three weeks ago when talks suspended over the Gaza operation.

  • Both of them want to finish negotiations by Monday or Tuesday, and notify President Rivlin that they managed to form a government. The swearing in of the government could take place no more than a week later.

Go deeper

Sep 1, 2021 - World

Israeli foreign minister criticizes Biden's handling of Afghanistan pullout

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) meets with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right). Photo: Andrew Harnik/POOL/AFP via Getty

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Wednesday that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was "probably the right decision that maybe wasn’t performed in the right manner."

The backdrop: U.S. allies in Europe have also questioned the execution of Biden's withdrawal, but Biden has rejected the idea that it could have been handled better. Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem, Lapid said he doesn't think the U.S. is retreating from the Middle East but is instead updating the way it operates in the region.

Ron Klain doubts U.S. will ever recognize Taliban government

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said on MSNBC on Tuesday that he wasn't sure whether the U.S. would ever recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government.

Driving the news: MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan asked Klain whether the U.S. would be recognizing the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan any time soon.

1 hour ago - World

Blinken to visit Ukraine as Russia invasion threat looms

Blinken (R) with President Zelensky. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/Pool via Getty

Secretary of State Antony Tony Blinken will travel to Ukraine on Tuesday as the country faces an ongoing threat of Russian invasion.

Driving the news: Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to discuss contingency planning. He'll then travel to Berlin to meet German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and attend a meeting of the "Transatlantic Quad" — France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S.