image Photo: Flash90

Lapid reaches a coalition deal

Israeli Opposition leader Yair Lapid announced that agreement has been reached with his political allies to form a new government.

“I am honored to inform you that I have succeeded in forming a government,” the Yesh Atid leader told President Reuven Rivlin just 38 minutes before last night’s deadline at midnight.

According to the deal, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, 49, would first serve as Prime Minister with Lapid, 57, as Alternate Premier for about 2 years, after which they would rotate positions.

President Rivlin thanked Lapid and said, “I congratulate you and the heads of the parties on your agreement to form a government. We expect the Knesset will convene as soon as possible to ratify the government, as required.”

In addition to his own centrist and Bennett’s nationalist parties, Lapid’s government would include the centrist Blue and White headed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the left-wing Meretz and Labor,  former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu, party, the New Hope right-wing party chaired by former Education Minister Gideon Saar – who broke away from Netanyahu’s Likud, and the Ra’am (United Arab List) factions.

“This government will work for all Israel’s citizens, those who voted for it and those who did not. It will respect its opponents and do all it can to unites and connect all parts of Israeli society,” Lapid said on Twitter.

“This is a night of great hope,” said Gantz, also on Twitter. The Blue and White leader is expected to remain in his current post as defense chief under the coalition agreement. He made the comment immediately before departing on a lightning visit to Washington for talks with his American counterparts to discuss attempts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, as well as the aftermath of the 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls conflict with terrorist organizations in Gaza last month.

The diverse coalition is expected to be fragile, however; holding only a razor-thin 61-seat majority in the 120-Members of Knesset (MKs).

Bennett has said that compromise on ideological issues will be incumbent upon all coalition partners in order to get the country back on track. Government debt was 72.4% in 2020 well above 60% in 2019, while the deficit spiked to 11.6% from 3.7% during the same years.

Caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now set to undertake every possible political maneuver to prevent his ousting from office – by using the time remaining before the necessary vote of confidence by the Knesset in the new proposed government before it can be sworn in. He will take particular aim at Yamina members rumored to be unhappy about joining forces with Arab and leftist lawmakers.

Israel’s longest-serving Premier, 71, has sought to discredit the Bennett-Lapid alliance, saying it would endanger national security – an allusion to efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program and manage ever-present friction with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

In a tweet and post on his official Facebook account this morning, Netanyahu wrote: “This is the time for the members of the Knesset elected by the right-wing votes to oppose this dangerous left-wing government!”

As part of Netanyahu’s strategy, current Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) wants the government confidence vote as late as possible to give his party leader time to entice members of Lapid’s camp to defect. Toward that end, Levin wants the vote to be held 7 days after the coalition was formed on Wednesday 9 June; or possibly even the latest deadline, according to law, on Monday 14 June.

In order to bypass Levin, all 61 MKs of the proposed coalition formally submitted a motion this morning to initiate the appointment of a new Knesset Speaker, thought most likely to be Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy – who would be expected to convene the voting at the earliest possible date – which is this coming Monday, 7 June.