Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid acknowledged on Monday there were still several obstacles in the way of forming a rainbow coalition government, dubbed a "coalition for change", but he believed the differences between its different elements could be bridged.
"There are still obstacles and we will have to overcome them together," he said. "Even if Yesh Atid had 40 seats, this is the government I would have formed — a unity government. A government that would care for every Israeli citizen, including those who did not vote for us.
"We will form one government, not two as it has been until now," he quipped in an implied criticism of the lastest government, which collapsed after less than one year in power at the end of a tumultuous term, marred with powerplays and policy disputes.
Lapid's government prospects received a significant boost Sunday evening after the leader of the far-right Yamina party, Naftali Bennett, officially announced his party would join the "bloc for change" — a loosely knit coalition of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties seeking to end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year rule.
An anti-Netanyahu coalition would 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.
Netanyahu gave his own statement shortly after Bennett, accusing his former aide of orchestrating what he called "the scam of the century."
He went on to claim the coalition that seeks to unseat him would endanger Israel's security and future and accused its members of pushing 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."
Lapid called the premier's comments "an irresponsible and dangerous speech made by a man who had lost his brakes" and claimed such rhetoric only weakened the country.
New Hope leader Gideon Saar, an ally-turned-foe of Netanyahu whose movement is in the midst of advanced negotiations with the "coalition for change", also slammed his erstwhile boss's remarks.
"They are delegitimizing a government that has not yet been formed," he said. "The incitement machine began working even before this government has done anything. An incitement machine that has nothing to do with ideology, but only with fear of losing of power."