UPDATE: New coalition government formed in Israel; Netanyahu is out
By ALAN SMASON, Special to the CCJN
(JERUSALEM) – Yair Lapid, the chairperson of Yesh Atid informed President Reuven Rivlin that he had been able to form a coalition government with less than an hour before his mandate would have expired. The message was sent at 11:22 p.m. Israel time on Wednesday by email and additionally by telephone.
When Lapid spoke to President Rivlin, he informed him that the coalition will be led by former government minister Naftali Bennett and him in a power sharing move. Other elements that will comprise the coalition will come from the Labor, Yirsrael Beiteinu, New Hope, Kachol Lavan, Meretz and Ra’am Parties.
According to the plan, Bennett, as chair of Yamina, will assume the duties of prime minister first to be followed by Lapid as alternate prime minister.
The initial term of office for Bennett will be approximately two years, after which Lapid will assume the portfolio of prime minister and Bennett will become alternate prime minister.
The announcement also signals the end of Prime Minister Benajamin Netanyahu’s 12-year term as prime minister, the longest any person has served in that position. Netanyahu is currently undergoing trail for alleged malfeasance in office by receiving gifts.
“I congratulate you and the heads of the parties on your agreement to form a government,” the president told Lapid. “We expect the Knesset will convene as soon as possible to ratify the government, as required.”
Political observers were less than optimistic that a deal could be struck as the midnight deadline to form a government loomed earlier in the evening. An announcement by Ra’am Party leader Saeed Alkharumi that he would vote against a unity “change” government seemed to kill the proposed power sharing grab by the Yamina and Yesh Atid Parties.
Alkharumi had agreed to be part of the coalition only on the condition the other parties agree to renewed illegal construction by Arabs.
With Ra’am voting against formation of the new government, Yamina and Yesh Atid would have had just 60 seats, one short of the threshold to form a government in the 120-seat Knesset governing body.
A side issue remained as to whether former minister of justice Ayelet Shaked, a major figure in Yamina, or Merav Michaeli, leader of the Labor Party, would be part of the committee to select judges. Shaked was slated to become interior minister under the new proposed coalition government, but Ra’am leader Monsour Abbas had also demanded that ministerial post during discussions with Bennett and Lapid.
The challenge to the coalition would be that any one Knesset member could potentially dismantle the government over any issue by threatening to pull out.
Such a tentative coalition seems doomed before it can even begin. The mandate given to Lapid by President Reuven Rivlin expires at midnight. Should a government fail to be organized formally, Israel will head back to its fifth set of elections since 2019.
Interestingly, former Labor Party leader Issac Herzog and former Leader of the Opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu’s majority government, was elected as the incoming Israel president. His term will start in July, probably around the same time that elections will be set should a government fail to be formed by the deadline.
This is a developing story.