Yamina leader Naftali Bennett revealed for the first time on Wednesday that he is prepared to form a national unity government, if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to build a coalition by the May 4 deadline.
Bennett said a right-wing government was still his preference, but if it was not possible, he would make every effort to build a unity government that conforms with his values. He said he would first do everything possible to enable Netanyahu to build a coalition, whose failure to be built until now – he said – was the fault of Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich.
Responding for the first time to Netanyahu’s call for direct elections for prime minister, Bennett called the idea “throwing billions in the trash” and accused Netanyahu of “holding Israel hostage” and being ready to take Israel to a sixth and seventh election. Without the support of Yamina, there is no majority for the direct elections bill. 
“Israel needs a functioning, stable government immediately,” he said. “The people of Israel are sick of fighting and want a government that works for them.”
Netanyahu responded by accusing Bennett of “doing everything possible to prevent the formation of a right-wing government and instead completing a deal on a government with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, with the support of the Joint List, despite having only seven seats. 
“This spits in the face of democracy,” said Netanyahu, who accused Bennett of being “ready to assassinate the Right.”
Netanyahu said a Bennett-led government would not be able to resist international pressure on Iran and other key issues.

Responding to questions about whether he would head the opposition if he fails to form a government, Netanyahu said “I am not resigning” and “We are doing all we can so we won’t be in the opposition.”
Netanyahu said clearly for the first time that he is not considering trying to succeed Reuven Rivlin as president. 
“I am not interested in being president and never was,” he said. 
Mocking Netanyahu for talking about breaking promises and deceiving the public, Lapid wrote on Twitter “there is no limit to swindling.” Lapid said no one believes Netanyahu’s empty promises anymore and that the solution is a unity government. 
Channel 13 reported on Wednesday night that one of the major fights preventing a deal between Lapid and Bennett is that Bennett wants  New Hope head Gideon Sa’ar to be defense minister and Lapid wants someone less right-wing. 
In an effort to advance his direct election for prime minister idea, Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday with the heads of Ra’am (United Arab List), Labor, Meretz and Blue and White. All except the Ra’am head Mansour Abbas, who is undecided, told Netanyahu they opposed the idea. 
Another idea raised in Netanyahu’s circles, that Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin serve as prime minister for a year, was dismissed on Wednesday by Netanyahu and by top officials in Likud.
Former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat promised on Wednesday that he will be the successor of Netanyahu.
Speaking at a conference of the Association of Municipal Corporations Conference at the Herod’s Hotel in Eilat, Barkat called on Bennett and Sa’ar to join a Netanyahu-led government. But he also spoke about the future of his Likud party if Netanyahu does not form a government by the May 4 deadline.
“If the prime minister decides to resign [from the chairmanship of Likud], I will of course enter the race for prime minister and I will win,” Barkat said.
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