Jerusalem: Israeli nationalist hardliner Naftali Bennett on Sunday said he would seek to form a coalition government with the opposition parties, taking a major step towards pushing Netanyahu and his dominant Likud party into the opposition in the coming week.
"It's my intention to do my utmost in order to form a national unity government along with my friend Yair Lapid, so that, God willing, together we can save the country from a tailspin and return Israel to its course," Bennett said.
The pair have two days time until Wednesday's deadline to seal a deal in which each is expected to serve two years as prime minister in a rotation deal, with Bennett holding the job first.
Bennett, a former top aide to Netanyahu who has held senior Cabinet posts had a complicated relationship with Netanyahu due to personal differences.
In his own televised statement, Netanyahu has accused Bennett of betraying the Israeli right-wing and has urged nationalist politicians not to join what he called a "leftist government".
"A government like this is a danger to the security of Israel, and is also a danger to the future of the state," he said.
Though Bennett's Yamina party controls just seven seats in parliament, he has emerged as a kingmaker in Israel I politics by providing the necessary support to secure a majority. If successful, his party would be the smallest to lead an Israeli government.
Meanwhile, Lapid has reached coalition deals with three other parties so far. If he finalizes a deal with Bennett, the remaining partners are expected to quickly fall into place.
If Bennett and Lapid and their other partners could successfully form a team, it would end, at least for the time being, the record-setting tenure of Netanyahu, the most dominant figure in Israeli politics over the past three decades. Netanyahu has served as prime minister for the past 12 years and also held an earlier term in the late 1990s.