After being tasked Wednesday with forming Israel's next government, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Yamina head Naftali Bennett and the rest of the anti-Netanyahu bloc face their most critical mission yet – a real and public attempt to form a coalition and save Israel from a fifth election cycle in a little over two years.
The moment a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became impossible - mainly due to the Religious Zionist party's refusal of support from Islamist Ra'am and New Hope's Gideon Saar rejection of joining any coalition with the premier - Bennett announced Wednesday that it is "either a wide emergency government or fifth elections."
All parties involved agree that the longer coalition talks continue, the chances for an anti-Netanyahu government decrease.
This is why Lapid rushed, just hours after receiving the mandate from President Reuven Rivlin, to meet with his negotiation team to formulate their strategy for the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu's Likud party has not yet had its final word. Immense pressure has been put on Yamina in the past few days to not work with Lapid, pressure that could soon become a genuine threat due to disagreements within the party.
Netanyahu is expected to try to sway Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, who said he would not support a government with the left-wing Meretz and predominately Arab Joint List.
Other than Chikli, two more Yamina MKs – Ayelet Shaked and Idit Silman – have reportedly been marked by Likud.
Both lawmakers have publicly said however that they are fully backing Bennett in his talks with Lapid.
"Ultimately, it was Netanyahu who failed to form a right-wing government," Shaked wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. She blamed Saar and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman for objecting to such a government and Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich for "his stubbornness" on Arab support.
"From the start, Yamina's seats were unconditionally part of the right-wing bloc. My path alongside Bennett has been a long one. We entered the public sphere together. I'm not convinced there is any precedent to the trust that exists between us," she added.
Her comments came hours after Netanyahu attacked her and Bennett for working with the so-called "bloc for change," in another attempt to divide the parties working to replace him.
"When [Bennett] met with us he had only one demand - to be prime minister. He raised this demand not only in private, but in all the meetings between the negotiating teams,” said Netanyahu.
"Now it has become clear to us that his goal was to waste time until the transfer of the mandate and to form a dangerous government with the left, where he will receive two years as prime minister," said Netanyahu, who accused Bennett of misleading his voters.
"Bennett spoke today about a unity government. It is merely a laundering of words and an attempt to deceive the public," Netanyahu said.
"Everyone knows that he wants to form a dangerous left-wing government. Can you protect IDF soldiers from the International Criminal Court with [Meretz head] Nitzan Horowitz? Can you fight the nuclear agreement with Iran with Lapid? Can you educate our kids with [Labor chair] Merav Michaeli?"