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Netanyahu asks Israeli right to stop 'dangerous' coalition

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on lawmakers to oppose the broad-based governing coalition and accused his former aide, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, of "selling out."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu railed against his rivals and one-time allies on Thursday, calling on right-leaning lawmakers to oppose the “dangerous” coalition seeking to unseat him after 12 years in power. 

Minutes before his mandate expired late Wednesday, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid called Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to inform him that he had succeeded in forming a governing coalition to replace Netanyahu. Under the 11th-hour rotation deal, right-wing Yamina leader Naftali Bennett will serve as prime minister until 2023 before Lapid takes over as premier for two more years. 

“All legislators elected by votes from the right must oppose this dangerous left-wing government,” Netanyahu tweeted Thursday in his first public comments since his rivals announced they had reached a power-sharing agreement. 

Netanyahu accused the ultranationalist Bennett of “selling out” to Raam, an Arab-majority party that joined forces with the Lapid-Bennett coalition. The eight-party coalition also includes a record number of female ministers. 

But the new government is far from a done deal. Before it can be sworn in, the Knesset must hold a vote of confidence. The “change coalition” has 61 seats in the 120-seat parliament, meaning Netanyahu and his Likud party need just a single lawmaker to defect.  

Mansour Abbas, who heads Raam, said Thursday that he’s hoping to broaden the coalition’s slim majority by adding Arab lawmakers who previously refused to support the coalition over the inclusion of Bennett, a former Netanyahu aide. 

“Efforts are being made to expand the circle of support for the coalition and government … then we will have more of a safety net for the coalition,” Abbas told Army Radio.

Netanyahu’s likely removal from office comes as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister is the subject of an ongoing corruption trial. He’s been charged with fraud, bribery and breach of trust, but denies all wrongdoing and says the charges are part of a politically motivated witch hunt. His critics feared another Netanyahu term would result in the passage of legislation ensuring the prime minister is immune from prosecution.

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