Israel opposition offers PM lifeline if he signs ceasefire

Protests against Israel's judicial overhaul and dismissing the defense minister, in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The head of Israel's biggest opposition party said on Monday he would lend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his support in parliament to keep him in office if members of the ruling coalition quit over a ceasefire deal.

Netanyahu has authorised his officials to resume negotiating a possible deal with Palestinian militant group Hamas to end the fighting in Gaza and release Israeli hostages seized on Oct. 7.

Some far-right partners in his coalition have said they will quit if the war ends before Israel has eradicated Hamas and freed the hostages, an outcome that could bring down Netanyahu's government.

Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, said at a meeting of his parliamentary faction: "There's a hostages deal on the table. It is not true that Netanyahu has to choose between the hostages deal and the continuation of his tenure as prime minister."

"Let him do the deal," Lapid said. "I promised him a safety net and I will keep that promise," he said, referring to a scenario if Netanyahu's coalition partners quit.

He said that was a difficult decision to make, given his opposition to Netanyahu, but "the most important thing is to bring the hostages home."

The two far-right parties in Netanyahu's coalition that are most implacably opposed to a ceasefire deal have a combined 13 seats in the Israeli parliament, while Lapid's party has 24 seats, according to the parliament's website.

(Reporting by Lee Marzel and Christian Lowe; Editing by Ros Russell)