The head of the right-wing Yamina party Naftali Bennett met late Saturday with the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid in an effort to form a coalition government that does not include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his Likud party.
"We had a good meeting and will meet again soon," Lapid said in a statement released at 2am following the two-and-a-half-hour-long conversation held at an undisclosed location.
Bennett has not said who he will recommend to be the next prime minister at his meeting with President Reuven Rivlin on Monday.
As president, Rivlin is tasked with choosing a member of the Knesset to form a government and consults with party leaders to hear their recommendations before doing so.
But with no party emerging the clear winner in the March 23 elections, Rivlin will in an unusual move attempt to determine which candidate would have the best chance of forming a coalition by asking senior party officials whom they would and would not consider joining.
Representatives of the parties will meet with the president on Monday to name their recommended candidate for prime minister.
Yamina said after the meeting that Bennett and Lapid "discussed the need to form a stable, functioning government as soon as possible in the political constellation following the March elections."
Netanyahu did not release any statement following the meeting.
Yamina number 2 Ayelet Shaked said Saturday that the prospect of a fifth election cycle since April 2019 was unacceptable.
"We are working around the clock for the establishment of a functioning cabinet. I promise we will use the votes given to us to reach the best outcome for the people of Israel," Shaked said.
Bennett, meanwhile, met for three hours with Netanyahu on Friday, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. The two also agreed to meet again.
Bennett insinuated on Twitter after his Friday meeting that he would not rule out Netanyahu as prime minister as others have done, saying that embargoes had been the downfall of the Jewish nation 2,000 years ago.
"I am motivated by the sense that our wonderful country cannot be taken for granted," Bennett wrote, adding that he would continue in his efforts to form the best government for the Israeli people.
Bennett is under pressure from the Likud and right-wing groups to join a Netanyahu-led government. But Bezalel Smotrich, the head of the extreme-right Religious Zionist Party, said Friday that he would not back any government reliant on the Islamist Ra'am party, leaving Netanyahu still short of the 61 Knesset seats he needs in his hand to form a coalition even with Yamina's seven seats.
Yesh Atid sources said last week that Lapid is prepared to let Bennett go first in a rotation of prime ministers should he join the so-called "coalition for change" to oust Netanyahu.
The party added, however, that Lapid will not recommend Bennett as the next prime minister due to concerns that he would then partner with Netanyahu to form a government.
"Bennett must first announce that he will join Lapid in the new coalition," the sources said.
First published: 08:49, 04.04.21