Photo: Flash90

Netanyahu fails to secure key Knesset committee

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost an important vote, in a new setback to his efforts to form the country’s 36th government.

The anti-Netanyahu bloc won control on Monday over the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee, which is a key parliamentary panel that is the first to be formed after an election. The Arrangements Committee mandates the legislative agenda of the new Members of Knesset (MKs) until the formation of a new government, including determination of what other parliamentary committees and who is appointed to serve on them.

After a motion floated by Netanyahu‘s right-wing Likud was rejected in a close vote, his centrist rival Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party was able to pass his own proposal.

The small Islamist Ra’am party – that has achieved potential kingmaker status by expressing openness to working with Netanyahu – voted with Lapid.

Defeat in the vote indicates that the incumbent Premier still has some way to go to secure a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, while marking the strengthening of his political opponents.

President Reuven Rivlin tasked Netanyahu with forming the next government on 6 April, after holding consultations with representatives of all the victorious parties in the 23 March elections – Israel’s 4th in 2 years.

Israel’s longest-serving Premier has about 2 more weeks to try bring together a ruling coalition within the allotted 28-day timeframe. If unsuccessful, Netanyahu can ask Rivlin for a 2-week extension, before the president appoints another candidate or asks the Knesset to nominate one.