New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar on Monday refused to enter a government led by Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, keeping the door open for a coalition to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which includes right, middle and left side parties.
Sa’ar’s comments came after leader Yamina Naftali Bennett, another right-wing opponent of Netanyahu, vowed not to sit in government with a head – directly or through a power-sharing agreement – with Lapid, who is over led by Yesh Atid’s central party.
“I am not limiting my options,” Sa’ar told Channel 12 news, when asked if he was willing to sign a power-sharing contract with Lapid or Bennett. “I’m not saying I agree, but I won’t sign unnecessary commitments.”
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Sa’ar said Bennett made a mistake by making it clear he is “in Netanyahu’s pocket.”
“But Naftali Bennett has a right to make mistakes,” he said.
Former Likud minister Sa’ar resented Bennett earlier Monday, shouting “poor man” and “deception” in a radio interview.
Lanyud Netanyahu’s party was shot at by right-wing rivals following Sa’ar’s comments to Channel 12.
“When Bennett and Gideon fall apart in the polls, they will start telling the truth: a vote will give them a government with Lapid, and a fifth election,” Likud wrote on Twitter.
Netanyahu was also asked in an interview about Bennett’s promise not to sit in a Lapid-led government.
“Bennett did not say what I asked him to say: You will not join a government with Lapid, meaning that Lapid will not be part of this government,” Netanyahu told Radio.
Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked confirmed that the party had no case of involvement with Lapid, but opposed being prime minister.
“The right has 80 chairs, there is no reason to give power to the left,” she said in an interview with Radio 103FM.
Earlier, Lapid reiterated Bennett’s promise not to join a coalition he leads, saying that if the anti-Netanyahu bloc wins a majority of seats in the election, “we will get out of it with a government . “
Lapid expected Bennett to change his tune if Netanyahu and the parties pledged automatic support for the majority prime minister in the 120-seat Knesset.
“There is always a difference between television Bennett and the Bennett of conversations behind closed doors, ”Lapid told public broadcaster Kan.
Bennett’s promise not to sit under Lapid came after the latest polls published before the election showed that Likud was getting a move, while Yamina and New Hope seemed to lose support. Opinion polls showed the heartthrob Yesh Atid as the second largest party after Likud.
The move seemed to be an attempt to counter the campaign message that Netanyahu pushed out a few days ago that a vote for Bennett or Sa’ar would in fact be a vote for Lapid as prime minister.
Bennett was previously part of Netanyahu’s bloc of right-wing and religious parties. Since being ousted from the government Netanyahu was formed last year by the Blue and White party, Bennett has become vocal criticism of how the Prime Minister handled the COVID-19 pandemic but – unlike other rivals of the main party – he has not argued Likud-led Government after the elections.