White House refuses to ‘weigh in’ on Israel’s nationalist leader Bennett

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Israel’s opposition leader moved closer to unseating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday and forming a new government after agreeing to terms with several parties including one led by Defence Minister Benny Gantz, a spokesperson said.

During a 12-year run in top office, Netanyahu has been an often polarising figure at home and abroad. An end to his tenure may bring reprieve from domestic political turmoil, but major shifts in Israel’s foreign policy appear less likely from the staunch United States ally.

Yair Lapid, a centrist tasked with forming the next governing coalition after the conservative Netanyahu failed to do so in the wake of an inconclusive 23 March election, had until midnight (2100 GMT) on Wednesday to present a final slate. Lapid, a 57-year-old former TV host and author, has yet to clinch a deal with his main partner, nationalist Naftali Bennett, who would serve as premier first under a proposed rotation between the two men.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked whether US President Joe Biden would have a ‘partner in peace’ with Bennett, a self-made tech millionaire who dreams of annexing most of the occupied West Bank.

Bennett has said that creation of a Palestinian state would be suicide for Israel, citing security reasons.

“We’re not going to weigh in on an ongoing political process in a foreign country, in Israel, or anywhere else in the world. I think you probably know well what’s the president’s view is on a two-state solution and how it’s the only path forward for lasting peace in the region,” Psaki told reporters.