The right-wing Yamina Party said Sunday it would not join the "left-wing" unity government being put together by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz and would instead join the opposition.
"In light of the government's emerging composition and its policy as a left-wing government led by Netanyahu, and in light of the prime minister's blatant contempt for Yamina and its voters, we've decided to serve the public from the opposition in the upcoming term and fight for the nationalist camp," said the party in a statement Sunday.
Yamina, an alliance of three smaller parties, is headed by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, whose portfolio will in the next government go to Gantz, the Blue & White leader who served under Netanyahu as IDF chief of staff.
The party had been a resolute part of Netanyahu's right-wing bloc as he tried to form a government without Gantz throughout the repeated election cycles of the past 13 months.
But now, Yamina said Sunday, the party would now be preparing for "the day after Netanyahu," and would focus on producing "a true right-wing option that will not sell out the justice system for its personal survival while being unprepared to take on Hamas and [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas."
The statement was referring to Netanyahu's criminal indictments, which will see him go on trial for fraud, bribery and breach of trust later this month. Since his deal with former political rival Blue & White came to light, Yamina has repeatedly accused the prime minister of sacrificing the right-wing to guarantee his personal legal fate.
Netanyahu was tapped by President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday to form the next government, after the prime minister secured the support of 72 of the country's 120 parliamentarians.
The Knesset members from Yamina did not sign the letter of support.
The party said, however, that it would be "a pugnacious but responsible opposition, which will give external support to positive government decisions like applying sovereignty [over the West Bank settlements and Jordan Valley], provided it is does not explicitly or implicitly lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state."
Netanyahu's Likud party hit back at the decision Sunday, accusing Yamina of quitting the coalition over a lack of ministerial positions.
"If Yamina had another ministry, would this be a right-wing government to them? This is the first government in the history of the country to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and unfortunately it will not be a part of it merely due to internal struggles over the distribution of ministries," Likud said.
"We hope that Yamina reconsiders, discovers its national responsibility, and joins a government that will lead an historic path in the history of Zionism."