Netanyahu launches coalition negotiations with Bennett, Smotritch

After his first round of coalition negotiations with the two ultra-Orthodox parties, designated PM Binyamin Netanyahu sat down Thursday night with the two toughest candidates for the right-wing government he is aiming for. With Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, he spent a couple of hours, which both described as “positive” and in a “good atmosphere.” They arranged to meet again to continue their discussion.

After his talks with the Religious Zionist party’s Bezalel Smotrich, the latter announced that he and the prime minister had “agreed to make every effort to persuade Naftali Bennett not to break up the right-wing camp by joining a left-wing government/” The Prime Minister’s office responded to this statement by saying that it “did not represent the real picture.”

Bennett has been in advanced negotiations with opposition leader Yair Lapid for a “government of change.” Smotritch is refusing to join a government depending on the support of an Arab faction, although this may be the essential key to a Netanyahu-led government majority.

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