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Lapid, Bennett know they must form a government quickly – or not at all

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On Wednesday, Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, received the mandate from the president granting him 28 days to try to form a government.

By Thursday, Lapid had met with Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, the potential next prime minister in a rotation pact between them. On Friday afternoon, the two men met with the leaders of New Hope, Labor, Meretz and Yisrael Beytenu.

And on Sunday Lapid and Bennett were meeting with the most sensitive potential coalition partner: Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra’am party.

Things are moving with breakneck speed, a fact that has made some Yamina and Yesh Atid officials upbeat about the new government’s prospects.

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett (left) and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid during the swearing-in ceremony of the 24th Knesset, at the Knesset building in Jerusalem, April 6, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Yet, ironically, that speed is a function not of ease, but of desperation.

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“What we don’t get done fast, won’t get done at all,” goes the refrain since Wednesday from those in the know.

A problem of numbers

A Lapid-Bennett government would straddle fault lines no government has ever before had to manage in quite the same way.

The proposed coalition has the same problem that Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu has encountered four times now in his fight across four elections to piece together a rightist coalition. Namely, without a dramatic leap of one party or another across the divide or, alternatively, the unprecedented support of Arab non-Zionist (or in some cases actively anti-Zionist) parties, the numbers just aren’t there.

Yamina MK Amichai Chikli seen at the Knesset on April 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitousi/Flash90)

Yesh Atid, Blue and White, Yamina, Labor, Yisrael Beytenu, New Hope and Meretz have 58 seats between them, three short of the narrowest of majorities — 61. That’s before Yamina’s Amichai Chikli declared last week he wouldn’t support such a coalition.

Remove Chikli and add the four-seat Ra’am to the mix and you reach precisely 61.

It’s a terribly difficult puzzle to piece together. Each new part Lapid or Bennett might try to add seems to compromise another.........

© The Times of Israel

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