Analysis |

For Netanyahu, Israel's New Government Will Be Born in Sadness

On Saturday night the negotiating teams met for an all-night marathon. Agreements will probably be signed on Monday unless a last-minute crisis breaks out.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

In a few days, just before his mandate expires, Benjamin Netanyahu will present his third government to the Knesset.

For him it will be a government born of tribulation, devoid of joy and full of sadness. Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett are not the partners he wanted beside him in top positions, if at all. But the reality of the ballot box bound them to him.

On Saturday night the negotiating teams met for an all-night marathon. Agreements will probably be signed on Monday unless a last-minute crisis breaks out.

Lapid’s relinquishing of the Foreign Ministry portfolio broke the deadlock. Lapid realized that he can’t honor his word to Bennett while demanding that Netanyahu break his agreement with Avigdor Lieberman; he also realized that his stubbornness about getting the Foreign Ministry wouldn’t look good among his voters.

The role of finance minister does not exactly fit him like a glove. It is, without doubt, a tremendous challenge. It contains great risks but also a chance to turn into a leader a doer, not a talker.

The massive cutbacks he will have to lead will hurt the middle classes, which gave him 19 Knesset seats. In parliament, he will have to repel attacks from from inside and outside the government. One can already imagine the harsh speeches by expected opposition head Shelly Yacimovich against the finance minister. It will be a pitched battle between two journalists and something to look forward to.

On Saturday night it appeared that Netanyahu had decided to dismiss MK Reuven Rivlin from his role as Knesset speaker after four successful and honorable years, maybe too honorable for the prime minister. Netanyahu’s motive is twofold: first to unravel Rivlin’s exaggerated independence for the liberal positions he has taken, for his repeated opposition to bills and initiatives that bear an anti-democratic odor.

On the other hand, he is eager to find a role for one of his serving ministers the name that stands out is that of Yuli Edelstein, who is waiting to hear from Netanyahu. Over the weekend the name of outgoing Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz also came up, but he is not interested.

In any case, Rivlin doesn’t intend to independently compete for the position against the candidate chosen by Likud. He also doesn’t intend to retire from the Knesset. He has no intention of giving Netanyahu such a double pleasure.

Back to the government: Sources involved in the coalition negotiations said last night that two sticking points remain between Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid (that may have been solved during the night).

One is about the equal bearing of the burden, the other about the size of the government and number of ministers. Lapid and his people aren’t satisfied with the fact that they forced Netanyahu to leave his natural partners outside in the cold. They are striving for a military induction law that would strengthen their victory over the Haredim. Habayit Hayehudi, on the other hand, is willing to concede to Likud in this respect.

Regarding the number of ministers, Lapid demanded 18, then relented and was prepared for 20 or 21. Netanyahu demanded 28 and was prepared for 27. Habayit Hayehudi supported Likud’s position. So it appears the government will have 24 or 25 ministers, including the prime minister. In any case, the inner cabinet table that signified for the past four years a wasteful and inflated government will be moved to the Knesset’s storeroom.

Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett in the Knesset. Credit: Michal Fattal

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