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Netanyahu holds a cabinet meeting this week. Photo: Amit Shabi/POOL/AFP via Getty

Efforts to form a new Israeli government and oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have come to an almost complete halt amid the escalation with Hamas.

Why it matters: Opposition leader Yair Lapid is six days into a 28-day mandate, and seemed on track to strike a coalition deal with Naftali Bennett, a right-wing kingmaker. But the latest crisis could make those efforts nearly impossible.

  • That’s because a Lapid-Bennett government would be just short of a majority in the Knesset unless they can get the support of at least one Arab party. The Arab Joint List supported Lapid in getting the mandate but was expected to abstain from a vote on the new government.
  • Lapid and Bennett were thus banking on the support of Mansour Abbas' Ra'am party — an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and sister movement of Hamas that broke from the Joint List.
  • Abbas was negotiating with both Lapid and Bennett about forming a government, and with Netanyahu about preventing them from doing so. Netanyahu received the presidential mandate to form a government first, but failed.

Driving the news: As the situation in Jerusalem and Gaza escalated on Monday, Abbas announced that he was suspending the coalition talks.

  • Abbas faced harsh criticism in his party and in the broader Arab community in Israel for his willingness to join any Israeli government.
  • The riots inside Israel also increased the criticism among Jews about the plans to form a government that would be dependent on an Islamist party.

What they're saying: Lapid issued a statement on Wednesday stressing that the escalation is further proof of the need to replace Netanyahu as soon as possible.

  • He said he would not allow Hamas to harm the democratic process in Israel and stressed the efforts to form a unity government would continue.
  • Bennett also issued a statement on Wednesday stressing that Netanyahu’s Likud party had failed in running the country and was incompetently leading Israel into a disaster.

What’s next: If the situation de-escalates quickly, Lapid, Bennett and Abbas could try to revive their talks.

  • But if it continues into next week and beyond, it could make those talks impossible and lead Israel closer to a fifth election since 2019.

Go deeper

May 11, 2021 - World

Explosions in Tel Aviv and Gaza as Israeli-Palestinian crisis escalates

Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepts a rocket fired from Gaza over southern Israel. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty

Tel Aviv — The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups fired dozens of rockets from the Gaza Strip toward Tel Aviv and other cities in central Israel on Tuesday night, a new step in the current conflict that is likely to be followed by increased Israeli air strikes in Gaza.

Why it matters: The current crisis began in Jerusalem but has evolved into a military conflict across Israel and Gaza that remains on a path of escalation.

Updated May 12, 2021 - World

Gaza crisis: Casualties pile up with no signs of ceasefire from Israel, Hamas

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip leave their neighborhood on Wednesday following an explosion. Photo: li Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tel Aviv — With Israel and Hamas now engaged in their most destructive fight in seven years, the Biden administration is dispatching a State Department official to join the de-escalation efforts.

The latest: The Israeli air force attacked a meeting of senior Hamas military leaders on Wednesday in Gaza and reported it had killed the Gaza City Brigade commander and the heads of Hamas’ cyber arm and weapons research and development department, along with at least three other senior officials.

At least one person killed, 99 missing after deadly Miami-area condo collapse

A massive search-and-rescue operation is underway after a portion of a 12-story residential building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed at approximately 1:30 a.m. Thursday, according to AP.

The latest: Officials have accounted for 102 people who lived in the high-rise Champlain Towers South, but 99 people remained unaccounted for by midafternoon, said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County at a press conference Thursday afternoon.