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Israeli Parliament To Vote This Weekend On New Coalition Government

NOEL KING, HOST:

Israel could have a new government soon without Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel's parliament is expected to install a new coalition government with a new prime minister. Now, this is not a done deal. Netanyahu is trying to hang on. His opposition is a group of parties with often competing interests. And it barely has a majority in parliament. NPR's Deborah Amos is in Jerusalem following this story. She's with us now. Hi, Deb.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Hello.

KING: So this coalition of parties formed an unlikely coalition. And since then, the country has been waiting for a vote on a new government. When does that happen?

AMOS: It happens on Sunday. It looks quite likely. It's - no one has dropped out of the coalition yet, which means a one-vote majority. And this is despite death threats, violent rhetoric, angry Netanyahu supporters on doorsteps. This is a very unusual coalition for Israel. You have the religious right wing. You have some left wing. You have an Arab party for the first time. They're all united by opposing Netanyahu. They say he's been divisive. In addition, he faces corruption charges. And he's hung onto office through four deadlocked elections. So here's Merav Michaeli. She's the head of the liberal Labor Party. And she talks about joining with right-wing parties, which would have been unthinkable until now.

MERAV MICHAELI: I don't get my dream government. And they're not getting their dream government. But we agree that Israel needs to start rehabilitating after the Netanyahu era, which is so harmful, and work towards stability and quiet.

KING: So she's basically saying, everybody here is compromising. The new prime minister would be Naftali Bennett. He was an ally of Benjamin Netanyahu's. And even though he's from a small party, this coalition agreed on him as the leader. Do Israelis have a fix on what this gentleman will do, how he'll lead?

AMOS: Not really. They sort of hang on to his biography, right-wing tech millionaire. He said that the Palestinian state would be suicide for Israel. He's the son of American immigrants. He's a tech millionaire. He's also religious. He's a modern Orthodox. He's the first prime minister to wear a kippah, a prayer cap. How much does his profile say about the new government policies? Not much says analyst Dan Rothem at the Kelman Institute.

DAN ROTHEM: He's not a very powerful figure. This is not somebody who conquered the prime ministership (ph) by virtue of his political appeal or political power. And that will affect a lot, I think, of his behavior as prime minister.

KING: He would also, as you mentioned, be getting voted in with a very slim majority. So how much leeway would he have to actually get things done?

AMOS: Well, that's the 64,000-shekel question.

KING: (Laughter).

AMOS: So here is Yonathan (ph) Plesner. He heads the Israeli Democracy Institute.

YOHANAN PLESNER: The No. 1 feature of this new government, it will come in as a democratic ceasefire.

AMOS: What he's talking about is they've all made these agreements. You know, if you step away, you can't be in a new government. So it's mutually assured political destruction Israeli style. And they can't move away from each other. If the government collapses, they're all out of jobs.

KING: NPR's Deborah Amos in Jerusalem. Thanks, Deb. We appreciate it.

AMOS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.