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Israeli opposition heads agree to form gov’t, boot Netanyahu out

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid has informed the country’s president that he can form a coalition government, a move that would bring an end to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years in power.

Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, was tasked with forming a government by President Reuven Rivlin after Netanyahu again failed to put together his own coalition following Israel’s fourth election in less than two years.

In a statement shared on Twitter on Wednesday, Lapid said he had informed Rivlin of the deal.

“This government will work for all the citizens of Israel, those that voted for it and those that didn’t. It will do everything to unite Israeli society,” he said shortly before a midnight deadline (21:00 GMT).

Lapid, a former TV presenter and a secular centrist, won the crucial support of hardline religious-nationalist Naftali Bennett, a technology multi-millionaire who has held a number of government portfolios including the defence ministry, on Sunday.

Under the coalition agreement, Bennett and Lapid would rotate the role of prime minister, with Bennett taking up the post for the first two years and Lapid the final two.

The agreement still needs to be voted on in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, where it requires majority support before the government can be sworn in. The vote is expected to be held within seven to 12 days, The Washington Post newspaper reported.

Israel’s latest political drama adds to the woes of Netanyahu, who is on trial for criminal charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust while in office – accusations he denies.

After losing the job of prime minister, he will not be able to push through changes to basic laws that could give him immunity and will lose control over certain justice ministry nominations.

Netanyahu’s Likud won the most seats in the March 23 election but he was unable to form a majority with his natural allies. Crucially, Bennett’s far-right party – allied with Netanyahu – refused to join forces with the United Arab List, a party that emerged as a kingmaker of sorts.

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