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Naftali Bennett to be defense minister, join lists with Likud

New Right leader MK Naftali Bennett is expected to become Defense Minister after his position is approved by the interim cabinet and the New Right will unite with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

The offer was brought by Netanyahu to Bennett when the two met in Netanyahu’s office on Friday morning.

Bennett accepted the offer and it will be brought up for the interim cabinet’s approval on the cabinet’s next session. Bennett also agreed to resign if another person is appointed to the position once a new cabinet is formed.

Bennett’s New Right party is expected to form a joint list with Netanyahu’s Likud and act as a single party throughout the 22nd Knesset.

During Friday’s meeting, Netanyahu offered Bennett two options: one being two “minor” positions for him and former justice minister MK Ayelet Shaked, or the Defense Ministry. The decision to choose the latter was in agreement between Bennett and Shaked.

“Blue and White will keep [using its best endeavors] to form [any] government in general and a unity government in particular.”

Blue and White co-leader MK Yair Lapid responded to the appointment, saying that “instead of promoting a unity government, Netanuyahu keeps fortifying his imminity bloc.”

He criticized Netanyahu, adding that “the amount of times he had said that Bennett is childish and irresponsible is countless. Now he puts the system that keeps our children’s lives in his hands. Because of his criminal cases, Bibi [Netanyahu] puts his narrow interest above the contry.”

Bennett’s appointment comes 13 days before the expiration of the mandate given to Blue and White leader, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz to form a government. Earlier on Friday, Gantz accused Netanyahu’s Likud of not being interested in forming a unity government.

The former chief of staff said that while his party’s main goal is “establishing a broad, liberal, unity government,” he is “examining other options to establish a government if negotiations with Likud do not come to fruition.”

A recent poll found that in case a third parliamentary election takes place, 39% of voters would blame Netanyahu for the fact that a unity government is not formed, while only 19% would blame Gantz.

Earlier on Friday, Netanyahu gave Interior Minister MK Aryeh Deri the go-ahead on advancing a direct election between him and Gantz. The initiative was first brought up by Deri earlier this week.

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