Midnight deadline approaches for Israeli coalition to unite and challenge Netanyahu

People protest against the unity government outside coalition talks at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan

People protest against the unity government outside coalition talks at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan

Still, with a Knesset vote to approve the coalition likely 12 days away, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepping up efforts to break up the so-called change bloc, the new government is far from secure.

In grave danger of losing his job, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out Thursday at the "dangerous" coalition that aims to unseat him, calling it a left-wing cabal when it in fact includes leading figures from Israel's political right.

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 inconclusive election in less than two years.

According to Israeli law, the Knesset must hold a vote of confidence within a week of being formally notified of a new government being formed.

Lapid's main political partner, nationalist Naftali Bennett, would serve as prime minister first under a proposed rotation between the two men.

"We nearly lost our hope and we hope that now after these two very hard years we will have an wonderful new era that will finally bring our hope back to Israel", Kostukovksy told AFP.

They have until the end of the day - 11.59pm (2059 GMT) ― to cobble together an administration that would end 12 straight years of rule by the hawkish heavyweight, Israel's longest-ruling premier.

Before the committee could gather to debate, however, Netanyahu, in late January, withdrew his bid, and charges against him were filed in Jerusalem District Court shortly thereafter.

"All lawmakers who were elected by right-wing voters must oppose this unsafe left-wing government", Netanyahu wrote on Twitter, signaling a strategy of putting relentless pressure on members of the parliament, or Knesset, who have teamed up with their ideological opposites in an attempt to push him out of office.

In a statement, Lapid said the "government will work to serve all the citizens of Israel including those who aren't members of it, will respect those who oppose it, and do everything in its power to unite all parts of Israeli society".

Lapid called on Levin to convene the Knesset for the vote as soon as possible.

Yair Netanyahu, son of the prime minister, assailed the new coalition on Twitter, calling Bennett "filth".

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Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamic conservative Raam party, which has four seats, has generally voiced openness to any arrangement that improves living conditions for Israel's 20 per cent Arab minority of Palestinian descent.

"All lawmakers who were elected with votes from the right must oppose this risky left-wing government", he said.

The political turmoil comes after the United States was pulled into discussions over the recent deadly conflict between Palestinians and Israel that left 254 Palestinians dead from Israeli air strikes in Gaza and 13 dead in Israel.

Among its members are the right-wing Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and the Islamist party Ra'am, which is set to become the first Arab party in Israeli history to join a government.

"I succeeded", Lapid, a former TV news anchor, wrote on Facebook. Yesh Atid has been in the opposition since 2015 elections.

Netanyahu, who served an earlier three-year term in the 1990s, had warned on Sunday of "a left-wing government unsafe to the state of Israel".

During a recent uptick in the conflict with Israel, they staged unprecedented protests in solidarity with Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.

Gantz would remain defence minister in the new cabinet, the parties said. "We have seen that all the other parties have signed the document", Abbas said. Thirteen parties of various sizes are in the current parliament.

The coalition government would be comprised of a diverse coalition of additional small parties, including the centrist Blue and White party, headed by current Defense Minister Benny Gantz that partnered with Netanyahu to form the outgoing government, the right-wing parties of Israel Our Home and New Hope, the centrist-left party of the Labor and the leftist Meretz party.

But Shaked, a prominent voice in Israel's hard-line right wing, has expressed misgivings about joining forces with the dovish members of the emerging coalition.

"We won't forget and we won't forgive", said Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionists.

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