A day before the inauguration of the 24th Knesset, the third candidate on Yamina’s slate, Alon Davidi, announced Monday that he will not take his seat in parliament and will instead return to Sderot city hall to continue his term as mayor.
Davidi, 47, rose to national prominence for his activism in response to rocket fire from Gaza over the past two decades. A longtime Likud member, he announced he was leaving the party ahead of the March election in order to run on Yamina’s slate of candidates.
In a Monday statement released moments before Yamina representatives met with President Rivlin to recommend Naftali Bennett as the next prime minister, Davidi stressed that he supported the party leader, in an apparent attempt to dismiss the suggestion that his departure was due to his stated opposition to joining a government with the anti-Netanyahu bloc.
“I joined Yamina out of deep faith in the leadership of Naftali Bennett and out of faith in the values of the movement, love of the people and the country… and I still believe in the party and my colleagues,” Davidi said. “I thank my friend Naftali Bennett, and support him in his actions to bring about a stable and functioning government.”
Yamina had been in a position to serve as a kingmaker between the two major blocs of supporters and opponents of Netanyahu. But instead of backing the prime minister or his rivals, it declined to take sides, at least for now.
Media reports Sunday indicated Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid could be close to an agreement on forming a power-sharing government. Channel 13 said Lapid had agreed to allow Bennett to serve as prime minister first in such an agreement.
According to a separate report on Channel 12, citing allies of the Yamina chief, Bennett would prefer a full right-wing government led by Netanyahu but that does not currently seem possible; his second choice would be a right-wing government led by Netanyahu with the outside support of the Islamist Arab Ra’am party, but that has been ruled out by Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich; and his third choice would be a partnership with Lapid and the center-left, in which Bennett would serve as prime minister.
Meeting with Rivlin, Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked urged the president to consider entrusting Bennett with forming the next coalition despite the party only having seven seats. Bennett is hoping he can become a consensus candidate who can bridge the deep divides between the rival factions.
Thanking Davidi in a tweet, Bennett called him a “valued and talented party member and leader,” saying that he would now lead Yamina’s municipal activity while remaining Sderot mayor.
In Davidi’s place, former MK Idit Silman, the next candidate on Yamina’s slate, will enter the Knesset for the party.