Yamina chief Naftali Bennett officially announced Sunday evening his party will join a coalition with centrist and left-wing parties in a bid to end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year rule.
"It's my intention to do my utmost in order to form a national unity government along with my friend Yair Lapid, so that, G-d willing, together we can save the country from a tailspin and return Israel to its course," Bennett said in a televised statement from Knesset. "Israel's political crisis is unprecedented, this madness must end."
Bennett and Lapid are reportedly aiming to announce to President Reuven Rivlin on Monday that they have managed to form a coalition while still hammering out the final understandings between the parties.
The budding coalition's various elements hold a diverse set of ideologies and its members would have little in common apart from the desire to send Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister, to the opposition.
Netanyahu is currently standing trial over corruption charges. He denies any wrongdoing.
The former defense minister lambasted Netanyahu for his repeated failures to form a government after four inconclusive election cycles over the past two years, saying that "Netanyahu never had a right-wing government, no one believes him anymore."
Bennett added he believed Israel's only options were either a fifth round of elections since April 2019 or a government with the so-called “bloc for change” which is comprised of parties adverse to Netanyahu.
An anti-Netanyahu coalition would be fragile and require outside backing by Arab members of parliament who oppose much of Bennett's agenda, which includes more settlement building on the West Bank and its partial annexation.
It would be expected to focus on the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, while setting aside issues on which members disagree, such as the role of religion in society and Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
Under a prospective power-sharing deal, Bennett would replace Netanyahu, the 71-year-old head of the Likud party, as prime minister and later give way to centrist Lapid in a rotation agreement.
They have until a Wednesday deadline to finalize a deal.
Under the expected agreement, Yamina will receive the interior affairs, religious affairs and the settlement affairs portfolios, head a Knesset committee, the position of coalition whip and a seat on the Judicial Selection Committee.
Netanyahu gave his own statement shortly after Bennett, accusing his former aide of orchestrating what he called "the scam of the century."
"All that Bennett cared about was becoming prime minister," Netanyahu said.
The Israeli leader insisted that a "good" right-wing government can still be formed.
Netanyahu also claimed that Bennett decided to join his rivals because his party would not manage to get into Knesset if Israel does go to another election round.
He called upon the right-wing elements of the government for change —Yamina, New Hope and Yisrael Beytenu — to not form a "left-wing government."
Netanyahu said such a coalition was a danger to Israel's security and future. "What will it do for Israel's deterrence? How will we look in the eyes of our enemies," he said. "What will they do in Iran and in Gaza? What will they say in the halls of government in Washington?"
Netanyahu accused the prospected coalition of pushing for what he called "personal legislation", referring to a host of bills that would bar him from running for the post again, to ensure that "they will be able to beat me in an election."
Meanwhile, hundreds of pro- and anti-"government for change" activists protested outside the Tel Aviv home of Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked.
Those opposing the right-wing party joining a coalition co-headed by Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid waved banners saying "no to a left-wing/terrorist government".
Those in favor of Netanyahu's ouster waved banners saying "government for change is not a dream".
A Palestine Liberation Organization official said after Bennett's speech that the prospective government would be "extreme rightist" and no different than administrations headed by Netanyahu.